California is suing oil companies for lying about climate change

I know that billionaires are easy villains, but in my book, some of the most evil, destructive, and powerful people in the world are the ones in charge at the fossil fuel companies. For decades they’ve known their product would destroy the planet and still they’ve put profit over a safe future for our planet. It’s why I get so rankled when too much responsibility is placed on individuals to change their behavior in order to fight climate change. As long as companies like Exxon continue to have so much unchecked power, individual choices only do so much. My home state of California is suing these companies for their part in making climate change happen and the lawsuit is holding them responsible for the extreme weather that has made California a really unsafe place to live. The lawsuit was filed just a day after The Wall Street Journal released a damning report on Exxon’s misinformation campaign. Even while the company’s own climate scientists were predicting dire consequences from fossil fuel use, Exxon continued to sow doubt about the severity of climate change.

The state of California has filed a sweeping climate lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, as well as the domestic oil industry’s biggest lobby, the American Petroleum Institute.

The suit, filed on Friday in San Francisco Superior Court, claims that the companies misled the public for decades about climate change and the dangers of fossil fuels. It demands the companies help fund recovery efforts related to California’s extreme weather events, from rising sea levels to drought and wildfires, that have been supercharged by human-caused climate change.

“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 Rob Bonta, California’s attorney general.

The WSJ Report: California filed its lawsuit against Exxon and other oil and gas companies just a day after The Wall Street Journal reported that executives at Exxon continued in recent years to raise doubts internally about the dangers of climate change and the need to cut back on oil and gas use, even as the company publicly conceded that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming.

Those efforts inside of Exxon, which continued until 2016, according to the Journal, were happening at the same time that scientists at the company were modeling troubling increases in carbon dioxide emissions without big reductions in fossil fuel consumption. The Journal cited internal company documents that were part of a New York state lawsuit and interviews with former executives.

In response to the Journal article, an Exxon spokesperson told NPR that the company has repeatedly acknowledged that “climate change is real, and we have an entire business dedicated to reducing emissions — both our own and others.”

Wiles said in a statement this week that the documents the Journal uncovered will probably be used against Exxon in court.

[From NPR]

I left my home state a year and a half ago for two reasons: the extortionate cost of living, and the constant stress from ecological disasters. California has undergone huge changes since I was a small kid (I’m 30). There never used to be hundreds of stingrays carpeting the beaches when I was a kid–now they’re a fixture because of warmer water. The surf breaks themselves have become different thanks to coastal erosion reshaping the sand. We never had weeks of blistering heat in the coastal city where I grew up, and we also didn’t have hurricanes, or a year-round wildfire season. It was never humid, now it’s muggy throughout the summer months. Our state has always been drought-prone but huge swathes of the Central Valley have been turned to dust bowls. I love California like crazy. I miss it every day, just thinking about the beauty of my home state now brings me to tears. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that living there would kill me. Catastrophic weather events and ecological changes are happening all over the world, not just California. These oil companies are responsible. I don’t have high hopes for this lawsuit but we should be trying every tactic we can to hold the companies accountable.

Picture note by CB: This is BP’s very recent former CEO, Bernard Looney, who resigned just last week for not disclosing “past romantic relationships with colleagues.”

Shell CEO Wael Sawan:

A photo from the American Petroleum Institute’s Pipeline Technology Showcase on Capitol Hill in April, via Instagram.

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12 Responses to “California is suing oil companies for lying about climate change”

  1. seaflower says:

    I’m glad someone is starting to take a stand. It’s a start.

  2. ML says:

    GOOD! Go California! I seriously hope that they’re successful, because things have to change quickly and the fossil fuel companies have a huge amount of influence.
    I do still believe that individuals need to do their part, but governments and large, polluting companies are where we’re going to book the most meaningful changes.
    In the EU, there are a bunch of Portuguese youths suing:

  3. Bettyrose says:

    I left Southern California because I literally couldn’t take the heat. Among other reasons. The Bay Area has a higher cost of living but even with the increased temperatures and humidity it’s still one of the most mild climates globally. I don’t know what to say about the new fire season. It’s catastrophic, horrific, and heartbreaking every single year, but where does one go that doesn’t have equally catastrophic weather systems these days?

    More than the lawsuit, California’s mandates to go fully electric will signal the beginning of the end of oil companies.

    • HelloDolly! says:

      Yes, I love this article/topic, but I take pause with the article’s extreme, dramatic rhetoric of California’s climate change. The changes here are no different than other regions—we just get more media coverage because it’s CA, which is a globally known tourist state. Also, I lived in socal for the first 20 years of my life and then lived for 15 years in norcal, and now I am back in socal for the last 5 years. And I can honestly tell you the humidity has increased but not as dramatically as claimed? California is expensive, that I agree with, but it’s not the hellmouth of climate change.

      • MF says:

        Strongly agree with this. I think a lot of the extreme rhetoric about CA’s climate is political–it’s a stronghold for Democrats so the GOP uses “California” as a shorthand for “liberal hellhole.” *insert eye roll here*

        Anyway, I live in the LA area, and I can tell you that while climate change is a huge issue here, I had much deeper concerns about extreme weather in the Midwest. You do have to watch out for fire season, but snow and ice kill way more people.

      • HelloDolly! says:

        MF, yes! I actually did my graduate work for 6 years in New England before coming back to socal, and 4/6 winters in New England experienced record snowfall–deemed “snowmageddons.” The year I was interviewing in CA, it took the company paying for my flight 3 rearranged flights to get me out of Boston. Each time, the snow was so bad that they had to cancel the flight. And this was all different weeks!

    • Shai says:

      As someone who still lives in SoCal, I can say that this year’s fire season (at least down here) hasn’t been as bad as other years. We’ve had fires (3 around me at some point), but nothing got so bad as year’s past. We’ve been lucky so far.

      • bettyrose says:

        Same in NorCal, although the humidity is out of control. It isn’t even all that hot at this point, but I’m ridiculously sweaty every morning after walking the dogs at 7am. I was in San Diego for a long time, which is albeit warmer than LA, but the average temperature creeped up quite a bit while I was there, to the point that 80 degrees in January wasn’t unusual (a bit inland from the water) and the night we left with our moving truck it was over 100 degrees at midnight (we were trying to avoid LA traffic on I-5). It’s common in San Diego to live in an older house/work in an older building, and not have much in the way of AC because it once had a more coastal climate, despite having the rainfall averages of a desert. But I’m just comparing it to coastal CA. It doesn’t match the summers in the midwest in terms of heat.

  4. Shai says:

    While I am glad someone is finally trying to hold these companies accountable, I feel like this article barely touches on that & makes all of our changes too extreme. I still live in California & yes, there have been changes to the weather, but it’s no different than other places. Also remember, California is a very large state so what you experience in the Central Valley isn’t the same as NorCal. I’m in SoCal and it’s not humid or muggy here unless it’s about to rain.

  5. DeeSea says:

    I wish the whole world could join forces and file a class-action lawsuit against these greedy monsters.

  6. Bumblebee says:

    My husband and I are 20-30 years from the age where you need help. Normally you want to be living by family, in a retirement community, close to an area with medical care options, etc. Except, all of those places in the US are having extreme weather events. And we have to think, 30 years from now, when the weather events are worse, when we are 80/85 and possibly helpless, and our house is destroyed by a fire/hurricane, etc, WTF do we do?
    So yeah, sue ALL the oil companies, gas companies, plastic manufacturers, any greedy economic entities that got us in this mess. Use their money to help save the planet we are destroying.

  7. bisynaptic says:

    I ❤️ CA.

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