California sues five oil companies, accusing them of misleading the public about the dangers of climate change.
The California action seeks the establishment of a fund to compensate for future losses caused by climate catastrophes in the state.
The US state of California filed a lawsuit against five of the world’s top oil corporations on Friday, claiming the businesses caused billions of dollars in damages and deceived the public by downplaying the hazards of fossil fuels, according to The New York Times.
It follows a slew of previous claims made by cities, counties, and states in the United States against fossil fuel companies over the effects of climate change, as well as claimed misinformation operations spanning decades.
The legal complaint was launched in San Francisco Superior Court against Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, all of which are based in California. According to The New York Times, the American Petroleum Institute, an industry body, is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
The firms and their partners “intentionally downplayed the risks posed by fossil fuels to the public, even though they understood that their products were likely to lead to significant global warming,” according to the lawsuit, which dates back to the 1950s.
The defendants’ representatives did not immediately respond to calls for comment, it noted.
The California action seeks the establishment of a fund to compensate for future losses caused by climate catastrophes in the state, which is in the forefront of climate change-fueled wildfires, floods, and other severe weather occurrences.
“Oil and gas company executives have known for decades that reliance on fossil fuels would cause these catastrophic results, but they suppressed that information from the public and policymakers by actively pushing out disinformation on the topic,” the 135-page complaint reads, according to the Times.
“Their deception slowed society’s response to global warming.” And their misbehavior has resulted in enormous consequences to people, property, and natural resources, which are still unfolding every day.”
Since the current wave of environmental lawsuits against fossil fuel companies started in 2017, the industry has attempted to avoid state court hearings on procedural grounds.
In May, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in two cases, indicating that they might continue.
The actions are fashioned after successful claims against Big Tobacco and the pharmaceutical sector over the opioid epidemic.