Wesley Smith writes for National Review Online about an unusual topic for a medical journal.

Our most venerable medical journal have gone political, continually espousing the redefinition of our most contentious political controversies — race, climate change, guns, etc. — into public-health emergencies to permit the authority of medicine and people’s trust in doctors to sway outcomes.

A Perspectives editorial penned by law professors in the New England Journal of Medicine enters the fray again, this time, advocating lawfare by governments against fossil fuel industries. The authors take heart from a legal settlement between a Louisiana parish and oil companies. From “State and Local Climate Litigation for Protecting Public Health:”

The case filed by Cameron Parish, which was settled in December 2023 for an undisclosed amount of money, was one of many that have targeted the oil industry. Louisiana communities have filed more than 40 lawsuits against oil companies over their dredging activities, alleging that the companies’ actions polluted local bodies of water and made the communities more susceptible to flooding.

But this case is not the same thing at all as paying damages for climate change. The Louisiana case concerned actual pollution befouling a specific place, meaning that its causes and public consequences were discernible and measurable, harms caused by identifiable misfeasance or malfeasance. From a NOLA.com story about the settlement:

The largest group of those suits was filed in Plaquemines Parish, which in 2013 filed 21 similar lawsuits charging that oil and gas companies failed to follow state law in drilling wells, disposing of wastes, building pipeline canals, and in restoring the land to the same condition it was in before their operations began.

In contrast the causes and impact of climate change are debatable and nebulous–often depending on “models” to predict future events that may never come to pass. Nor can current damages caused by a severe weather event–such as flood or tornado–be pinned on a specific wrongful act or identifiable tortfeasor.