Photo: IWMI Flickr Photos

Climate Science and Law


Our climate science and law group, led by Dr Rupert Stuart-Smith, conducts scientific and legal research that informs legal claims and policy. We focus on key climate governance issues: compensation for climate impacts, equitable mitigation, and financial risk. We work with partners to understand emerging evidentiary questions that arise in climate lawsuits and policy development. We also consider how scientific evidence has been used and interpreted in past cases to facilitate improved use of scientific research in the courts. 

Our current research focus areas are:

  • Health attribution: We synthesise methods from climate science, epidemiology and physiology to shed light on the impacts of climate change.
  • Mitigation: How quickly should countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet their Paris Agreement commitments equitably? The answer to this fundamental question is not known precisely, an issue of critical policy and legal uncertainty. Our research clarifies the mitigation action needed by states if they are to act in concert with norms and principles of international law.
  • Financial impact of legal action: litigation and regulatory enforcement action constitutes a growing financial risk to firms. However, these risks are rarely disclosed, and their impacts on companies are poorly understood. Our research addresses this gap. 

Our work

Our work integrates climate science with legal research and practice. We work in close partnership with the Environmental Change Institute. We are embedded in a large close-knit network of scientists around the world at the cutting edge of this field and actively collaborate with scientists from a range of different disciplines. Our research has identified current and potential barriers to, and opportunities for, using the latest scientific evidence in courts. 

Our research advances methods in attribution science. We also support improved integration of climate science in legal argumentation to facilitate wider use of scientific evidence in litigation. To achieve these goals, our team works with strategic litigants to map and/or develop the evidence base for ongoing or future cases.

The growth in legal action around climate change offers opportunities to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy but the financial implications of climate litigation remain poorly understood. We work with regulators, private-sector actors and leading academics across the University of Oxford and beyond to assess, quantify, and reveal the materiality of these risks.

What we've achieved

Recent research highlights


  • Aisha Saad | Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown Law
  • Lucy Temple | Research Assistant, Attribution of climate change impacts on health
  • Ewan White | Research Assistant, Legal limits to CO2 removal to meet climate goals
  • Nele Schuldt | Doctoral Researcher, Human Rights Centre, University of Ghent

Contact us

If you have any questions about this workstream, would like to learn more, or want to get involved: please contact Rupert Stuart-Smith. For general questions about the programme please email Oxford Sustainable Law Programme information.