L Before the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg saw the light of day, it existed: man-made or accelerated climate change. That should not have escaped Big Oil, i.e. the seven largest oil and gas producing companies BP, Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Eni as well as ConoconPhillips. To be more precise, they have been accused of doing just that by some US regions and major cities from New York to San Francisco for many years. Big Oil is said to have known about climate change since 1970 but misinformed its customers.
Big Oil's greatest fear is that the charges will be brought to a jury. “Of course the oil companies are doing everything they can to stop this. Shell, Exxon and other oil companies do not want their executives to testify under oath why the companies prepared their own facilities for climate change while publicly proclaiming that climate change did not happen, ”says Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Lawan of the UCLA School of Law.
Good jury chance
It wouldn't be the first time large corporations have left the courthouse after a jury verdict as a loser. Especially when companies knew their products would cause injuries. State courts paved the way for the record deal with Big Tabacco for $ 246 billion. A paint manufacturer had to pay damages to get rid of the lead paint they sold, even though they knew lead was toxic.
And the chances are that this will happen to Big Oil too, as a federal district judge in the US state of Rhode Island is now showing. Judge William E. Smith ruled the lawsuit against 21 oil and gas companies, including Exxon, Shell and BP, should be tried in a state court. Federal judges in Northern California and Baltimore have also ruled that these cases will go to a state court. Judge Smith noted in his statement: “The defendants understood the consequences of their actions decades ago when the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources saved a world of trouble. However, instead of sounding the alarm, the defendants sought to obscure the emerging scientific consensus and delay changes that are, however, existentially necessarywould in no way affect their billions in profits. In the meantime, they are secretly preparing their company for the imminent impact. ”
Paid denial of climate change
Are meant For example, oil platforms that were strengthened before stronger storms and the rise in sea levels due to rising temperatures. At the same time, a Harvard University study shows that ExxonMobil ran paid ads (priced at $ 31,000 each) from 1977 to 2014 that made it clear that they did not yet know what role man-made greenhouse gases played in global warming could play - although they demonstrably knew better. 'Exxon Mobil misled the public about the state of climate research and its effects,' write study directors Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes in their concluding Judgment .
A study by the George Washington University now confirms the hope of scientifically substantiated judgments. Sociologist and head of the study Sabrina McCormick explains: “We found out that there is a trend. Court judgments are increasingly based on scientific knowledge about climate change. In the 1990s, that was only rarely the case. That changed around 2006. Today, US courts very often use science in their decisions. ”
Coastal regions face billions in spending on protective measures
It's not surprising that coastal regions in particular are now vehemently deciding to file a lawsuit. A recent study by the Center for Climate Integrity found that coastal communities in the US will need to spend at least $ 400 billion over the next five to ten years alone to protect property from rising sea levels. Money that the municipalities would like to get straight from the hands of those who, in their opinion, are responsible for the increase.
As early as 2017, a statement by the city of San Francisco against ExxonMobil said: “San Francisco is planning a reinforcement its dams to protect itself from rising sea levels. Short-term solutions should cost more than 500 million US dollars, long-term investments five billion. 'Experts predict an increase in this area of up to 20 centimeters by 2030. The city of Santa Cruz estimates a 98 percent probability that up to a 90 centimeter flood will hit them by 2050. There is even a 22 percent chance that this could be the case as early as 2030. This damage alone is estimated at 742 million. The damage that can be expected from increased forest fires is also said to be several hundred million US dollars.
The United States likes to present itself as the world leader in reducing emissions. The energy-related CO2 emissions are According to the company's own information, it fell by 14 percent between 2005 and 2017 (from 5,990 million to 5,131 million tons). That is also correct so far. However, in the past, the second year of the administration of US President Donald Trump, CO2 emissions rose again to 5,268 million tons.