Watch out Big Oil, and King Coal. Your day in court is rapidly coming.  One of Britain’s leading climate scientists believes that the day when people affected by worsening storms, heatwaves and floods could soon be able to sue oil, coal and power companies is fast approaching.

Myles Allen, a physicist at Oxford University, argues that a breakthrough that allows scientists to judge the role man-made climate change played in extreme weather events could see a rush to the courts over the next few years.He tells the Guardian newspaper this morning: “We are starting to get to the point that when an adverse weather event occurs we can quantify how much more likely it was made by human activity. And people adversely affected by climate change today are in a position to document and quantify their losses. This is going to be hugely important.”

Allen’s team has used the new technique to work out whether global warming worsened the devastating UK floods in the Autumn of 2000, which inundated 10,000 properties. Although not disclosing his results, he told the paper that people affected by floods could “potentially” use a positive finding in his research to begin legal action.

Some lawyers though argue that the issue of causation could be problematic. Proving a direct causal link between an emission and an extreme weather event could be extremely difficult. And if the tobacco industry is anything to go by, it may well be. For fifty years, Big Tobacco effectively quashed any legal action by arguing that there was no causal link between smoking and cancer.

But the Guardian article closes on an interesting point here. Just as Big Tobacco deliberately lied about the health effects of its products and delayed litigation and regulation, so too has Big Oil.

Owen Lomas, the head of environmental law at London law firm Allen & Overy, argues that companies that have also misrepresented the science of climate change could also get sued. Said Lomas: “If you look at the extent to which certain major companies in the US are accused of having funded disinformation to cast doubt on the link between man-made emissions and global warming, that could open the way to litigation.”

Now that would be interesting…