WHY IT MATTERS

As watchdog groups called out companies for failing to disclose  how climate change might threaten them financially, investors faced increasing pressure both for going too far to address climate risks and for not going far enough.

“It’s the wild west in terms of what companies should do. And there are some that are greenwashing, yes,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian climatologist and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy. But some making a sincere effort are “getting pushback from the purity culture, people saying that anything but perfection isn’t worth it.”

Even Hayhoe and others warning about the dangers of climate change didn’t escape censure, with some activists laying into them for flying to conferences or eating meat.

At some point, people started throwing soup and paint and gluing themselves to things.

“I get it,” Hayhoe said. “It’s a psychological reaction to the genuine fear that people feel when they start to understand the magnitude of this problem.”

Others sought to take their grievances to court. As of today, there are 2,176 climate-related lawsuits in play across the world, including 654 filed in U.S. courtrooms, according to the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

And scientists and economists are making further advances in calculating exactly how much a country’s activity may have contributed to climate change – and to specific disasters. This line of argument, referred to as “climate attribution science,” made its way into more courtrooms.

“So far it’s been a battle of the experts on paper,” said Sabin Center’s executive director, Michael Burger. “What we have not yet seen is an actual trial” presenting evidence toward attributing a certain percent of obligation to a climate-polluting company or country.

But it’s just a matter of time, experts say.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR 2023?

With the new year, expect more public anxiety as climate change continues to escalate – and more worry among companies and governments over liability and risk.

Companies and investors will face pressure to climate-proof their supply chains and operations.

Court rooms will see more climate cases filed, he said – focused both on challenging national governments to increase their climate policy ambitions and on holding corporations accountable for their emissions or deceptive practices.

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