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Local governments in the United States are filing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies for aggravating climate change.
New York, San Francisco, and Oakland are among the nine US cities and counties that have sued Big Oil, a group of fossil fuel companies that include BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell. The local governments are holding these companies accountable for greatly contributing to climate change, which caused extreme weather conditions like floods, wildfires, landslides, and other similar catastrophes.
A report published in the Washington Journal of Environmental Law and Policy revealed that in 2010, Exxon Mobil alone was accountable for global climate change damages that amounted to $19.6 billion. The company’s annual contribution to costs and damages related to climate change is also forecasted to reach $138.6 billion by 2030.
Although no climate lawsuit has reached the trial stage, Vic Sher—a partner at the law firm Sher Edling LLP—is confident that the local governments’ cases will hold water. According to Sher, scientific data can now trace about two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution back to fossil fuel companies. Greenhouse gases cause greenhouse effect or the situation wherein the atmosphere traps heat radiation from the sun. Greenhouse effect, in turn, leads to climate change.
Aside from scientific data, the recent lawsuits will also present evidence that the companies did not take action despite knowing that fossil fuels cause climate change. Leaked internal documents show that the companies deliberately misled the public by promoting their products as environment-friendly in order to protect their business.