The New York City government is suing the world's five largest publicly traded oil companies, seeking to hold them responsible for present and future damages to the city from climate change.

The suit, filed Tuesday against BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, claims the companies together produced 11 percent of all of global warming gases through the oil and gas products they have sold over the years. It also charges that the companies and the industry of which they are part have known for some time about the consequences but sought to obscure them.

"In this litigation, the City seeks to shift the costs of protecting the City from climate change impacts back onto the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat," says the lawsuit brought by New York corporation counsel Zachary Carter, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York


The legal strategy has been already embraced by several California cities and counties, but prior suits seeking to blame companies for their role in causing climate change have floundered.

It remains unclear whether a new wave of litigation -- propelled by stronger climate science, reports about how much some companies knew about climate change decades ago, and somewhat divergent legal strategy -- will succeed where those efforts failed.


Several prior cases challenging individual companies based on a public nuisance theory failed -- including at the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2011 that climate action by the Environmental Protection Agency in effect removed the ability to use the courts as a remedy.

But the difference now, Burger said, is that the claims are being brought under state, rather than federal, common law -- and that strategy remains to be tested.

Looks like we might actually get a full case on whether CO_2 causes climate change... frankly, it's long past time this was tried in court!

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