California filed Friday against five of the world's largest oil companies, alleging that they lied to the public about the damage their product is causing. The state wants the companies to pay into a fund that would support recovery from climate change-related extreme weather events like heavy storms and wildfires.
“For more than 50 years, Big Oil has been lying to us — covering up the fact that they’ve long known how dangerous the fossil fuels they produce are for our planet,” California Gov. Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement on the suit. “California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for billions of dollars in damages — wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heat waves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells."
The industry swiftly struck back.
“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicized lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and an enormous waste of California taxpayer resources,” Ryan Meyers senior vice-president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group also named as a defendant, said in a statement.
Which companies are named in the lawsuit?
Evidence of deception
that even after ExxonMobil admitted in 2006 that the scientific consensus was that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide causes global warming, internal documents showed the company privately strategized on how to minimize public concern about climate change.
Other recent revelations
A growing trend
Why this case could succeed
In August, the U.S. Supreme Court to force lawsuits brought by local governments to move to federal courts, meaning that they won't be able to stop California from trying this case in state court, which is widely perceived as more plaintiff-friendly.
Fossil fuel companies say that since everyone uses their products, they alone shouldn’t be blamed for climate change.
“Climate policy should be debated in Congress, not the courtroom,” Meyers of API said.
“Climate change is a global problem that requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecemeal litigation for the benefit of lawyers and politicians,” the company’s statement added.
Why it matters
If California wins, other states are likely to follow suit in order to try to secure compensation for the growing costs of climate change.
“California is a bellwether for US environmental action,” Geoffrey Supran, director of the University of Miami's Climate Accountability Lab, said in a statement. “Momentum has been building for several years behind lawsuits seeking to hold Big Oil accountable for its decades of climate deception and damages, and now that the fifth largest economy in the world has waded in, the floodgates are truly open.”