Showing articles associated with Rupert Stuart-Smith

Rupert Stuart-Smith's research aims to improve the scientific evidence in used in lawsuits related to climate change impacts and develop improved methods for evaluating the extent to which climate change is affecting climate-related events around the world, and their impacts on societies. His current work spans climate and glacier modelling, the impacts of climate change on health, strategy development for climate litigation and understanding the financial risks associated with litigation on climate change.

Rupert has led research evaluating the scientific evidence needed to bring successful legal claims for compensation for the impacts of climate change, and how the evidence provided to date has been interpreted by the courts. His team found that the evidence cited in cases often lags substantially behind the state-of-the-art in climate science and provided suggestions for how the evidence used in climate-related lawsuits can be improved going forward.

Rupert has also evaluated the role of climate change in the retreat of a glacier in the Peruvian Andes, and the resulting increase in the flood risk from a large lake that has grown in the wake of the glacier’s retreat, in the context of an ongoing lawsuit (Lliuya v RWE).

Why is Oxford a good place to work in research related to environmental challenges?

Oxford conducts world leading climate research across various disciplines, including climate science, law, economics and policy. The recently launched Oxford Sustainable Law Programme is an example of Oxford’s strength in interdisciplinary environmental research, bringing together researchers from across the university to facilitate the use of the law as a tool to catalyse the sustainability transition. In addition to being a world-leading hub for climate research, organisations like the Sustainable Law Programme, by connecting academics with practitioners, facilitate the production of targeted, impact-focused research that can be used outside of academia to effect change in courts and parliaments worldwide.

What is the biggest environmental challenge facing the planet right now?

Climate change and its impacts, the destruction of the natural world, environmental pollution, and resource overexploitation and scarcity are all major global challenges that threaten communities and ecosystems around the world. While all of these issues are substantial and require urgent action to address them, climate change is probably the most urgent challenge of all. In addition to the direct impacts of rising sea levels, increasingly catastrophic and regular extreme weather events, and retreating glaciers, allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue will also cause substantial harm to the natural world, and lead to the scarcity of resources, such as water, in some regions of the world. Without preventing further climate change, most other environmental challenges are unlikely to be addressed.

Despite the challenges, are you optimistic about our future?  

I am. In recent years, we have seen global movements led by young people that refuse to accept the continued inaction on climate change that jeopardise their futures. We have also seen growing numbers of lawsuits brought around the world, seeking compensation for the impacts of climate change from high-emitting corporations or countries, or to compel governments and companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Recent successes in the courts in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, and elsewhere have shown that successful climate litigation is possible. The power of the courts as a force for climate action – when policymakers have failed to take adequate action – should no longer be in dispute.

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Rupert Stuart-Smith