Scientists claim that global warming may be releasing toxic chemicals in the air known to cause health problems and birth defects. They found that with the warming of the Arctic, polar ice caps were releasing chemicals that had been trapped in ice, including DDT, lindane, chlordane, PCBs and the fungicide hexachlorobenzine. These chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants, are banned under the 2004 Stockholm Convention.
Scientists from Canada and Norway examined measurements of persistent organic pollutants between 1993 and 2009 at the Zeppelin research station in Svaalbard and the Alert station in northern Canada. Their research showed that the concentration of PCBs and HCBs have been rising since 2004. The question was how quickly the ice would continue to melt, and the toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere. For all of the chemicals except lindane, it is unknown how much is stored in the Arctic ice.
Global warming has provoked some controversy, but most scientists agree that it is a real phenomenon. Many attribute the causes to man-made pollutants, such as carbon dioxide from power plants and gasoline, methane gas from food animals at factory farms, deforestation, and chemical fertilizers. Some have argued that there is no human factor, or at least strong one, and the changes are due to natural weather patterns. Regardless, the global temperature has been steadily rising over the past decade, and the full consequences are unknown.
One clear outcome is that more will be exposed to harmful chemicals that are released from the Arctic and swept out to large populations. The result will be more health problems and more babies born with birth defects. However, if you believe that toxic chemicals from the Arctic ice caused your child's birth defect, your options for relief may be limited. If you sue a company or companies based on the idea that they created pollution that resulted in the Arctic waters warming and releasing toxic chemicals, you would have a problem with the issue of remoteness.
When you sue in tort for negligence or strict liability, you want to make sure that the injury you suffered is close enough to the defendant's bad behavior, or breach of duty. If too many factors come between the defendant's breach of duty and your injury, often your injury is considered too remote. If so, the defendant may be liable to some extent, but not the full extent of your injury. Because global warming is such a massive phenomenon, with a variety of factors, it may not necessarily be foreseeable that one company's pollution could be the cause of Arctic ice melting. If you want to sue a company for your child's birth defect, a more powerful argument lies in stating that the local company polluted the air and/or water, and showing studies that link air and water pollution to the very birth defects your child suffers from. These are the sorts of cases that plaintiffs are most likely to win.