‘50 years of deception’: California sues five Big Oil companies for lying about climate change
'50 years of deception': California sues five Big Oil companies for ... Down To Earth Magazine
Lawsuit against oil and gas companies for “creating, contributing and assisting in the creation of state-wide climate change-related harms in California”
California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, in a press release on September 16, 2023, announced the state has sued five major oil and gas companies for over five decades of deception, cover-up and damage that have allegedly cost California taxpayers billions of dollars in health and environmental impacts.
Bonta filed the lawsuit, The People of the State of California vs Exxon Mobil Corporation & Others, September 15, 2023 in San Francisco County Superior Court.
It alleged that the five companies, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP and the American Petroleum Institute “concealed and misrepresented facts regarding the dangers of fossil fuel products and encouraged continued use of fossil fuels and discouraged concerted action on greenhouse gas emissions”.
The state of California has suffered and is suffering and will suffer injuries from the oil and gas industry’s wrongful conduct,” the 135-page lawsuit stated.
California is experiencing the consequences in the form of extreme weather events like extreme heat, drought and water shortages; extreme wildfire; public health injuries; extreme storms and flooding; damage to agriculture; sea level rise, coastal flooding and coastal erosion; ecosystem, habitat and biodiversity disruption, it added.
The lawsuit demanded that oil companies pay their fair share for recovery efforts from climate change-induced superstorms and wildfires. The compensation would also protect people from the health impacts of extreme heat and managing dwindling water supplies in extreme drought.
Infrastructure and homes would also be fortified against sea level rise and coastal and inland flooding.
Big Oil has been lying and covering up the fact that they’ve long known how dangerous fossil fuels are for our planet, said Newsom.
“Wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heatwaves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells. California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill. California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable,” the Governor said.
California is the first major oil producing state to take fossil fuel companies to court for their climate deception.
Bonta is the ninth attorney general in the United States to sue Big Oil companies for fraud or climate damages, as well as the first to file a climate litigation. Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court declined requests from the fossil fuel industry to intervene in similar lawsuits in seven other states.
Those lawsuits are now advancing towards trial in state courts.
Whether it’s fires, droughts, extreme heat or sea-level rise, Californians have been living in a climate emergency caused by the fossil fuel industry, said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity in a statement.
California’s decision to take Big Oil companies to court is a watershed moment in the rapidly expanding legal fight to hold major polluters accountable for decades of climate lies.
Studies have shown that anthropogenic climate change impacts have intensified summer forest fires in California.
Researchers led by Marco Turco & et al (published in journal PNAS on June 12, 2023) have estimated that from 1971-2021, anthropogenic climate change contributed to a 172 per cent increase in forest burned area. The increase to 2021 from 1996 was even more humongous at 320 per cent.
On September 12, 2023, California passed a bill called SB-253 Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act that requires the California Air Resources Board to develop rules by 2025 for companies with annual revenues over $1 billion. This means big companies will be required to disclose their carbon footprint.
It would also force big companies doing business in the state to disclose their direct greenhouse gas emissions as well as those that come from activities like employee business travel.
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SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 15: Life on Land
The article discusses the lawsuit filed by California against major oil and gas companies for their alleged deception and damage caused by fossil fuel products. The issues highlighted in the article, such as extreme weather events, wildfires, droughts, sea-level rise, and biodiversity disruption, are directly connected to climate change and its impacts on the environment and human well-being. Therefore, SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) are addressed in this article.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters
- SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
- SDG 15.1: Ensure conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems
- SDG 15.2: Promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests
The targets identified above are relevant to the issues discussed in the article. Strengthening resilience to climate-related hazards and integrating climate change measures into policies and planning are crucial for addressing the impacts of extreme weather events, wildfires, and sea-level rise mentioned in the article (SDG 13.1 and SDG 13.2). Additionally, ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, including forests, is important for mitigating biodiversity disruption and protecting against the damage caused by climate change (SDG 15.1 and SDG 15.2).
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Indicator: Number of extreme weather events (e.g., heatwaves, storms, flooding)
- Indicator: Area of forest burned due to wildfires
- Indicator: Sea-level rise and coastal erosion rates
- Indicator: Conservation and restoration efforts in terrestrial ecosystems
The article mentions several indicators that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets. The number of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms, and flooding, can indicate the effectiveness of resilience-building measures and adaptation strategies (SDG 13.1). The area of forest burned due to wildfires can reflect the success of forest management and fire prevention efforts (SDG 15.2). Sea-level rise and coastal erosion rates can be monitored to assess the impact of climate change on coastal areas and the effectiveness of adaptation measures (SDG 13.1). Lastly, the conservation and restoration efforts in terrestrial ecosystems can be measured to evaluate progress towards sustainable land use and biodiversity protection (SDG 15.1).
4. Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 13: Climate Action||13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters
13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
|Number of extreme weather events (e.g., heatwaves, storms, flooding)
Sea-level rise and coastal erosion rates
|SDG 15: Life on Land||15.1 Ensure conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems
15.2 Promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests
|Area of forest burned due to wildfires
Conservation and restoration efforts in terrestrial ecosystems
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