Researchers say they have confirmed linkages showing global warming is directly responsible for creating a “critical threat” of devastating flooding in the Peruvian Andes.
The findings represent a critical piece of missing evidence for lawyers suing German power giant RWE on behalf of Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a farmer from Huaraz. Lliuya is asking the energy provider for a contribution of $20,000 USD towards the costs of securing his property against the risk of an outburst flood from the lake.
Although small, if Lliuya’s claim is ultimately successful, it would have major repercussions for major greenhouse-gas emitters around the world.
“Such claims require rigorous scientific evidence quantifying the links between emissions and impacts – as has been provided in this study,” said Professor Thom Wetzer, Founding Director of the Oxford Sustainable Law Programme.
“It is now up to litigators to translate the science into high-impact legal arguments. Whether or not this particular case proceeds, it shows there is huge potential to leverage the power of the law to hold private companies liable for climate-change related impacts,” he added.
The joint research, published 4 February by the University of Oxford and the University of Washington establishes a “full set” of links between historic greenhouse-gas emissions and the substantial risk of flooding from Lake Palcacocha threatening the city of Huaraz. The lake gathers melt from the Palcaraju glacier.
The study finds: “The magnitude of human-induced warming equals between 85 and 105 Percent...of the observed 1°C warming since 1880 in this region. We conclude that it is virtually certain (>99% probability) that the retreat of Palcaraju glacier to the present day cannot be explained by natural variability alone...”
“Around the world, the retreat of mountain glaciers is one of the clearest indicators of climate change,” said study author and researcher at the University of Washington Professor Gerard Roe, continuing: “Outburst floods threaten communities in many mountainous regions, but this risk is particularly severe in Huaraz.”