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Jan Lee headshot

San Francisco and Oakland Sue Fossil Fuel Companies Over Sea Level Rise

By Jan Lee

The cities of San Francisco and Oakland expect to be paying a hefty chunk of change in the coming decades to offset the effects of climate change. According to papers filed this week in State Superior Court, San Francisco expects to be paying out about $5 billion for climate change mitigation this century in an effort to stem the impact of rising seas. Both cities say they see those rising costs more than a question of maintenance: it's a cost that should be borne by those most responsible for global warming.

On Tuesday, both cities filed suits against a five oil and gas companies (Bay Area-based Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP) that they say knew they were creating a climate crisis as early as the 1990s and "launched a multi-million-dollar disinformation campaign to deny and discredit what was clear even to their own scientists: global warming is real and their product is a huge part of the problem."

The two independently filed law suits add to the increasing effort to "[shift] the costs of abating sea level harm ... back on to the companies" that are seen as having the largest contribution to continuing climate change. In July the city of Imperial Beach and the counties of Marin and San Mateo launched their own suit against fossil fuel companies. Those suits are still working through the courts and present a growing list of data and investigation into the causes and impacts of global warming.

The latest two suits were filed in San Francisco and Alameda County and will be heard in California courts, a state that has been leading the effort to recognize and address the effects of global warming.

Meanwhile, President Trump has taken his own stand on climate change (again). On Friday the Advisory Committee for Sustained National Climate Assessment -- the 15-member committee that issues the country's climate reports every four years -- was informed it was being disbanded.

It's the committee's work in part, that TriplePundit references when it reports on how coastlines and other ecological areas have weathered climate change. The 2018 report, which was leaked almost a year in advance presented data that scientists recognized were not supportive of the administration's position on whether climate change is human-caused. The Trump administration is expected to comment on the report and has the ability to amend it, but at this point it isn't clear whether the report will receive its final stamp of approval. Some scientists have expressed concern that the administration may try to bury the findings of the report.

The most recent suits against fossil fuel companies also come at a time when there is growing international support for the Paris Accord and addressing the causes of climate change. Al Gore, who recently spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco said that Trump's decisions regarding Paris and the country's role when it comes to recognizing that climate change exists won't change that momentum.

The message from groups that have stepped up to support Paris and to recognize the challenges of climate change, he said is "we’re going to meet the Paris commitments regardless of what President Trump does or says or tweets.” It's a message that more cities and counties are taking to heart with their own message about the need to shift the responsibility for the cost of climate change.

Flickr image: Ruth Hartnup




Jan Lee headshot

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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