Climate change: California sues five major oil companies for misleading public
California on Monday filed of a lawsuit against five of the largest oil and gas companies in the world — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP — and the American Petroleum Institute (API) for allegedly engaging in a decades-long campaign of deception and creating statewide climate change-related harms in California.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, on behalf of the people of California, is seeking nuisance abatement through the creation of a fund to finance climate mitigation and adaptation efforts; injunctive relief to both protect California’s natural resources from pollution, impairment, and destruction as well as to prevent the companies from making any further false or misleading statements about the contribution of fossil fuel combustion to climate change; damages; and penalties.
“Oil and gas companies have privately known the truth for decades — that the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change — but have fed us lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profits at the expense of our environment. Enough is enough,” said Attorney General Bonta.
“With our lawsuit, California becomes the largest geographic area and the largest economy to take these giant oil companies to court. From extreme heat to drought and water shortages, the climate crisis they have caused is undeniable. It is time they pay to abate the harm they have caused. We will meet the moment and fight tirelessly on behalf of all Californians, in particular those who live in environmental justice communities.”
“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 Governor Gavin Newsom said.
“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. With this lawsuit, California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable and deliver the justice our people deserve,” the lawsuit read.
The complaint contains extensive evidence demonstrating that the defendants have long known about the catastrophic results caused by the use of fossil fuels.
The lawsuit said, in 1968, API and its members received a report from the Stanford Research Institute, which it had hired to assess the state of research on environmental pollutants, including carbon dioxide. The report stated: “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000, and . . . there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.”
In 1978, an internal Exxon memo stated that “[p]resent thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”
More recently, the defendants have deceptively portrayed themselves and their products as part of the climate solution.
Shell claims online that it aims to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, and that it is “tackling climate change.” However, Shell’s CEO told the BBC on July 6, 2023 that cutting oil and gas production would be “dangerous and irresponsible.”
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Updated: 18 Sep 2023, 09:26 PM IST