Wicked Problems
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Ben & Jerry's vs. Darth Vader, pt 1

Ben & Jerry's vs. Darth Vader, pt 1

Vermont is poised to clear a first-of-a-kind law, the Climate Superfund bill, that could mean Armageddon for carbon polluters and create a market for climate risk startups.

This is the moment that for decades has the recurring nightmare from which lobbyists and lawyers for energy majors and other carbon polluters awake in a cold oily sweat. For the first time anywhere, a law is about to be made that will hold carbon polluters financially liable for damage from extreme weather events attributed to climate change.

It’s a huge story. And too big for one episode. So here’s part one of two to talk about Vermont's groundbreaking Climate Superfund Bill. Joined by independent climate journalist Dana Drugmand and climate litigation expert Nigel Brook, the discussion explores the implications of this pioneering legislation, its potential impact on fossil fuel companies, and the broader context of climate litigation globally.

Here’s the highlights:

Dana Drugmand

Overview of Climate Litigation

- Explanation of different strands of climate litigation: against governments and corporations.

- Overview of U.S. cases targeting major oil companies for climate change damages.

- Vermont’s lawsuit against big oil under consumer protection laws.

3:58 - Vermont’s Climate Superfund Bill

- Introduction to the Climate Superfund Bill (S.259) in Vermont.

- Background and legislative journey of the bill.

- Grassroots advocacy and the Make Big Oil Pay campaign.

- Impact of extreme weather events, such as the 2023 Vermont floods, on the bill's momentum.

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Climate Attribution Science

- Explanation of climate attribution science and its importance in litigation.

- Differentiation between event attribution and source attribution.

- The role of key studies like the Carbon Majors report in linking emissions to specific companies.

Legal Standards and Liability

- Discussion on strict liability imposed by the Vermont bill.

- Historical knowledge of fossil fuel companies about the environmental damage caused by their products.

- Legal standards and foreseeability in environmental damage.

Legal Challenges and Future Outlook

- Anticipated legal battles and possible federal court involvement.

- Comparison to historical cases like tobacco litigation.

- Speculations on the bill’s impact if passed and potential ripple effects globally.

Nigel Brook

- Richard Delevan welcomes Nigel Brook, a consultant with Clyde & Co., to provide context on Vermont’s law within the history of climate litigation.

European Court of Human Rights - Klimaseniorren

- Discussion on the ECHR ruling against the Swiss government for inadequate climate protection.

- Nigel explains its significance and potential for inspiring similar cases in Europe and globally.

NGO Strategies and Legal Theories

- Exploration of how NGOs have evolved their tactics in climate litigation.

- Comparison between current strategies and historical approaches to climate cases.

ClientEarth Case and Potential for Future Litigation

- Analysis of the ClientEarth case in English courts and its implications.

- Speculation on how new precedents might affect future climate litigation efforts.

Vermont’s Climate Superfund Bill’s Global Impact

- Discussion on how Vermont’s Climate Superfund Bill might influence global climate accountability efforts.

- Potential parallels with existing U.S. lawsuits against oil majors.

Tobacco Litigation Parallel and Future of Climate Accountability

- Comparison of climate litigation to past tobacco lawsuits.

- Potential outcomes if the Vermont bill sets a precedent.

Legislative Framework and its Influence on Litigation

- Exploration of how new legislative initiatives, like Vermont’s bill, shape the battleground for climate litigation.

- Potential for other states and countries to adopt similar laws.

An Existential Threat to Fossil Fuel Industry

- Discussion on the existential implications for the fossil fuel industry if liability for climate damages is established.

- Speculation on future global agreements or grand bargains to address climate accountability.

Economic Projections and Tipping Points

- Examination of economic projections related to climate change and potential underestimations of its impacts.

- Discussion on tipping points and their implications for global climate policy.

Financial Incentives for Climate Action

- Exploration of potential financial incentives for companies to take stronger climate action.

- Discussion on regulatory changes and their potential impact on corporate behaviour.


- Dana Drugman - Independent climate journalist, founder of

and expert on climate litigation and policy.

- Nigel Brook - Consultant with Clyde & Co., specialising in climate risk and litigation.

Links & Resources:

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Thanks for listening. And thanks to our guests and our unexpected new vocal talents from Theodore and Valerie.

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Wicked Problems
Wicked Problems - Climate Tech Conversations (Subscriber Feed)
A show about climate tech - the intersection of people, politics, technology, and capital that will help shape the future. And whether you'd want to live in it.