Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral arguments in Connecticut v. American Electric Power. In this case, several state attorneys general are suing a handful of utilities alleging that the utilities' emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to the "public nuisance" of global warming. This is an innovative use of a traditional, common law cause of action. Nonetheless, I am quite skeptical, as I explained in this 2004 column and this interview. The lower court was also quite skeptical of the suit, dismissing it as nonjusticiable (see story here).
From the accounts I've heard and read, the Second Circuit panel was somewhat skeptical of the state AGs claims. Here the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor provides a report, along with some libertarian commentary. Taylor thinks the suit is a somewhat welcome development insofar as it represents a greater willingness among environmental advocates to rely upon property rights and common law causes of action (instead of centralized regulations) to address environmental harms. As Taylor also notes here, I've explored the question of how to apply property rights principles to climate change, and my conslusions are not those typically advanced by free market advocacy groups (see here, here, and here).