California has initiated legal action against major global oil and gas corporations, alleging deliberate deception of the public regarding the risks associated with fossil fuels. These fuels are now being attributed to climate change-induced storms and wildfires causing substantial financial losses, as announced by state officials on Saturday.
The civil lawsuit was filed in the state Superior Court in San Francisco and seeks to establish a fund, financed by these companies, to support recovery efforts following catastrophic storms and wildfires. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized in a statement that the companies named in the lawsuit, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP, should be held accountable.
California taxpayers should not bear the burden of the billions of dollars in damages resulting from wildfires devastating entire communities, toxic smoke polluting our air, deadly heatwaves, and record-breaking droughts parching our wells.”
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry association also implicated in the lawsuit, argued that climate policy should be debated in Congress rather than the courtroom. Ryan Meyers, senior vice president of the institute, expressed, “This ongoing, coordinated effort to initiate baseless, politically-motivated lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workforce is merely a distraction from important national discussions and a significant misuse of California taxpayer funds.”
Shell echoed similar sentiments in its statement, asserting that the courtroom is not the appropriate venue for addressing global warming. The energy conglomerate emphasized the necessity of a collaborative, society-wide approach to address climate change and voiced support for transitioning towards a lower-carbon future.
California’s legal action aligns with similar lawsuits filed by various states and municipalities in recent years. Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Concerned Scientists stressed the importance of California’s lawsuit in the broader movement to hold Big Oil accountable for its decades-long deception and to secure access to justice for individuals and communities facing the consequences of fossil fuel-induced extreme weather and gradual disasters such as rising sea levels.
The extensive 135-page complaint argues that these companies have been aware since at least the 1960s that burning fossil fuels would lead to global warming and climate change, yet they downplayed this impending threat in their public statements and marketing campaigns.
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