The Turning Tide Against Climate Change Denial Is Getting Larger

New York has filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, claiming that they purposefully downplayed the risks climate regulations would have on its business. The company deceived its investors, and the general public, on the matter by concealing the financial risk that the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions presented. This lawsuit has brought fossil fuel companies’ role in climate denial to the forefront of the news, again.

An offshore oil platform Credit: Zukiman Mohamad

Investigative reporting done by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times showed that Exxon knew the science of global warming and spent millions to promote misinformation. The evidence prompted the attorney generals in New York and Massachusetts to subpoena the oil giant.

It’s no secret that fossil fuel corporations, and big donors like the Koch Brothers, have used their money to promote organizations like The Heartland Institute, CFACT, and Americans for Prosperity, in order to block government policies aimed at curbing climate change. Legislators, such as James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, have received millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry in political contributions.

However, recent strides have been made to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in denying climate change. 2017 and 2018 have been big years for climate change accountability.

Oil filling station Credit: Markus Spiske

On 17 July 2017, San Mateo County, Marin County, and the City of Imperial Beach in California all filed a lawsuit against 37 fossil fuel companies. This move stoked many other waterfront cities and states to contemplate going to court with the fossil fuel industry.

In 2018, Rhode Island became the first state to sue oil companies over the effects of climate change, and the city of Baltimore sued 26 fossil fuel companies to hold them to account for rising tides. Baltimore invested billions of dollars into its waterfront over the past half-century and is preparing for the worst.

These companies being sued, which includes BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Shell and Statoil, have made many moves in an attempt to dodge, or slow, potential legal troubles. They have even asked that the matters be transferred to federal courts, but a US District Court denied this request, a big win for state governments.

These lawsuits will continue to progress as more fossil fuel corporations are put under the spotlight. The developments discovered in the courts will likely lead to even more cities and states suing the companies for damages.