California sues oil giants, claiming they downplayed climate change for decades: NPR

In this aerial photo taken on August 21, a vehicle is seen driving through floodwaters after heavy rains due to Tropical Storm Hillary in Thousand Palms, California.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

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Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

In this aerial photo taken on August 21, a vehicle is seen driving through floodwaters after heavy rains due to Tropical Storm Hillary in Thousand Palms, California.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

The state of California has filed a sweeping climate lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, as well as the local oil industry’s largest lobbyist, the American Petroleum Institute.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that the companies misled the public for decades about climate change and the dangers of fossil fuels. It calls on companies to help fund recovery efforts related to extreme weather events in California, from rising sea levels to drought and wildfires, exacerbated by human-caused climate change.

“Oil and gas companies have secretly known the truth for decades — that burning fossil fuels causes climate change — but fed us falsehoods and falsehoods to boost their record profits at the expense of our environment. Enough is enough.” said Rob Bonta, California Attorney General.

Oil and gas companies already face dozens of lawsuits from states and localities over their role in causing climate change. The California case adds to the legal threats facing the American oil and gas industry, forcing fossil fuel companies to defend themselves against the largest economy in the United States and a major oil-producing state.

“California’s decision to take Big Oil to court is a watershed moment in the rapidly expanding legal battle to hold major polluters accountable for decades of climate lies,” said Richard Wells, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, a group focused on holding big polluters accountable for climate change. Fuel companies are responsible for their role in driving climate change.

“Whether it’s fires, drought, extreme heat or sea level rise, Californians are living in a climate emergency caused by the fossil fuel industry, and now the state is taking decisive action to make these polluters pay,” Wiles added.

why now?

The lawsuit comes after years of severe weather events that battered California’s economy and killed its residents. In the past year alone, California has been inundated with record temperatures, explosive wildfires, unusual bouts of heavy rain and snow, and sea level rise that threatens the state’s beaches — disasters that studies say are becoming more likely or more severe because of the climate. It changes.

California filed a lawsuit against Exxon and other oil and gas companies just one day later The Wall Street Journal Exxon executives in recent years have continued to raise doubts internally about the risks of climate change and the need to reduce oil and gas use, even as the company publicly acknowledges that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, a report said.

Those efforts within Exxon, which continued until 2016, according to magazine, was happening at the same time that scientists at the company were modeling alarming increases in carbon dioxide emissions without significant reductions in fossil fuel consumption. the magazine He cited internal company documents that were part of a New York state lawsuit and interviews with former executives.

In response to the magazine In an article, an Exxon spokesperson told NPR that the company has repeatedly acknowledged that “climate change is real, and we have an entire business dedicated to reducing emissions — both our own and others.”

Wells said in a statement this week that the documents magazine The revelations will likely be used against Exxon in court.

What are the allegations?

In California’s 135-page complaint, the state claims that oil and gas executives knew at least since the 1960s that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels would lead to planetary warming and climate change. According to the lawsuit, reports funded by the same industry directly linked fossil fuel consumption to rising global temperatures, as well as damage to the air, land and water.

Despite this, oil companies deliberately withheld information from the public and policy makers. The country claims it is even investing billions to discredit and spread misinformation about climate change.

“Their deception caused a delay in the societal response to global warming,” the complaint said. “Their misconduct has resulted in significant costs to people, property and natural resources, costs that continue to unfold every day.”

The state also accuses oil companies of continuing to deceive the public today about the science and reality of climate change, adding that the industry’s investments in clean fuels and renewable energy are “nonexistent or minimal” compared to the resources allocated to expanding its fossil production. Fuel production.

How are companies responding?

Ryan Myers, general counsel of the American Petroleum Institute, defended oil and gas companies and their commitment to reducing their environmental footprint, adding that climate policy should be the domain of Congress “to debate and decide, not the court system.”

“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to launch baseless, politicized lawsuits against an essential American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and a colossal waste of California taxpayer resources,” Myers said.

Likewise, Anna Arata, a spokeswoman for Shell, told NPR that the company agrees climate change must be addressed, but it must be done collaboratively rather than through legal action.

“We do not believe the courtroom is the right place to address climate change, but smart policy from government and action from all sectors is the right way to find solutions and drive progress,” she said in a statement.

Exxon, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Why Exxon?

Previous investigations found that Exxon worked for decades to create confusion about climate change, even though its scientists began warning executives as early as 1977 that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels were warming the planet, causing It poses severe risks to humans.

A study appeared early this year in the journal nature It found that Exxon scientists had modeled global warming trends “with shocking levels of skill and accuracy,” according to the lead author.

Despite the warning from its scientists, Exxon has led and funded a highly effective campaign for more than thirty years that has cast doubt on human-caused climate change and the science that supports it.

Scientists at the United Nations say the world is running out of time to prevent global warming that would cause more dangerous impacts, such as storms and heatwaves. Climate scientists say people need to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The world is currently heading towards a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius.

Climate change is making California wildfires more explosive. Over the past two years, the threat of wildfires has led several major insurance companies to curtail their home insurance business in the state or stop selling new policies altogether to avoid paying billions in damages.

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