LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The United States (US) state of California sued five of the world’s largest oil companies, alleging the firms caused billions of dollars in damages and misled the public by minimising the risks from fossil fuels, according to a court filing.
The suit, dismissed by one defendant as “meritless” and “politicised”, follows numerous other cases brought by US cities, counties and states against fossil fuel interests over the impact of climate change as well as alleged disinformation campaigns spanning decades.
The civil case was filed in superior court in San Francisco against ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron, which is headquartered in California.
The American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, is also a defendant in the case.
“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 read.
“Their deception caused a delayed societal response to global warming. And their misconduct has resulted in tremendous costs to people, property and natural resources, which continue to unfold each day.”
The suit seeks the creation of an abatement fund to pay for future damages caused by climate disasters in California, which is on the front lines of climate change-fuelled wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather phenomena.
“By downplaying the scientific consensus on climate change and emphasising uncertainty, defendants hoped to delay any regulatory action that might seek to reduce or control (greenhouse gas) emissions, thereby threatening the industry’s profits,” the complaint added.