New York City is suing the oil industry for climate change. Specifically, it is suing companies like Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum and Chevron. Let’s learn more about the city’s basis for the lawsuit, the issues with its case, the context of this action and the other actions New York City is taking against the oil industry.
The Logic of the Suit
New York City says it is carrying out a twenty-billion-dollar plan to protect it from rising seas, stronger storms, and greater flooding risks. According to an article that was published on apextribune.com, the lawsuit says that global warming linked to various oil company products is correlated to higher temperatures, worsened snowfall, more flooding, and rising sea levels.
A warmer world results in more precipitation, hence more snowfall, which takes an even greater toll on public resources. The city is demanding billions to pay for revamping existing old infrastructure like sewer lines, building new infrastructure for clean water, and building structures to protect the shoreline and minimize flooding risks.
NYC is suing those five companies because the Union of Concerned Scientists attributes eight percent of the projected global warming and related sea rise to those companies.
The Possible Issues with the Suit
However, according to many observers, the suit might face some roadblocks. For instance, while the oil industry does have an effect on carbon emissions, the problem with the New York City suit is that they are blaming oil companies entirely for the problem.
Then they might have trouble proving that sea levels have even changed in response to the warming that may have happened. Swedish geologist Nils-Axel Mörner says there is no sea level rise at all, and there have been other observers that have made the same assertion.
Oil companies are also questioning climate models themselves. They say that they are already being asked for billions to pay for the predicted future damage when climate models from the early 2000s predicted the world would be much warmer today than it is. They claim that if the climate models can be wrong, they shouldn’t have to pay based on worst scenario predictions.
New York City’s lawsuit is in conjunction with suits filed by seven California cities. New York City is divesting five billion dollars in oil companies; this involves selling oil stocks held by the city pension fund. That is out of the nearly 200 billion dollars in the city’s pension plans. This divestment action is the largest divestment move by a municipality in history. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state has begun a similar divestment from oil companies. The oil divestment movement itself has involved hundreds of institutions and around five and a half trillion dollars.
We still don’t know if Mayor DiBlasio will decide to go through with the suit with all the possible issues that may arise. New York City’s lawsuit is part of a broader movement to sue oil companies for billions while divesting from their stocks.