Redemption Song; Let’s Talk Climate Damages

Flat World Partners
5 min readMay 25, 2023

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Back in November, we wrote about climate litigation cases in the US brought by states, cities, and counties against Big Oil having progressed past many, many motions to dismiss into the discovery phase of trials. The latest big win, having come in late April, is a decision out of the Eighth Circuit Court, joining the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, that says — no — Big Oil — we will not push your cases to the Supreme Court for these matters do not arise to the jurisdiction of federal law. By keeping these cases out of Federal Court, the plaintiffs can avoid having the resolution of them fall to the EPA, and, instead, will be able to argue for damages in front of a judge and jury. If the plaintiffs are successful, we could be looking at significant damages.

These victories are important and the stakes are high. States, for instance, are responsible for the safety and well-being of their citizens and for the protection of their natural resources. Therefore, Big Oil, having deceived the public about the negative impacts of their products, have significantly harmed the health of people and their environment with the heaviest impacts yet to come. As Climate Wire noted, “The 8th Circuit also rejected the energy companies’ argument that the activity causing injury in the case is not the production of fossil fuels, ‘but rather the alleged “misinformation campaign” carried out via false advertising and misrepresentations in Minnesota.” Why go after them for fraud? Because these companies individually and through the American Petroleum Institute caused people around the world to misunderstand, putting it lightly, the effects of carbon emissions on the planet.

Why go after them now? Two reasons: one — lawyers can prove it thanks to investigative journalists and whistleblowers who have documents that show Big Oil knew earlier than anyone else what we’d be looking at in terms of climate damage; and two — states and cities and towns and counties and homeowners and renters and business owners and workers — are going to need incredible amounts of money to shore up our infrastructure and deal however we must with violent swings in weather, food security, water security, and social life thanks to the lies of the fossil fuel industry. Sorry, it’s one thing to sell a harmful product to willing buyers, but it’s another thing altogether to lie about the harm for decades and pretend that you’re a legitimate player in a free market. Big Oil is benched.

Kate Starr, Co-Founder & Chief Investment Officer

Climate litigation has been in the news a lot recently. One article published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shared three interesting predictions for climate litigation in 2023

1: Cases will start to be heard on their merits in the US
2: We’ll see new and exciting legal approaches to accountability across the globe
3: Advances in science will strengthen existing and inform new cases

While states and cities are pursuing legal remedies to deal with climate change, the rest of us can participate in renewable energy through community solar projects. This primer from the State of New York’s Energy Research and Development Agency walks consumers through how to evaluate and choose a community solar company. It lists providers in NY, but there’s good advice for people in many states looking for renewable energy options.

The Center for Climate Resilience and Decision Science provides public access to its climate models so that anyone in the US can get a sense of the predicted impact of climate change in a 12-square-kilometer area. The Portal generates maps and reports on temperature, precipitation, and wind for locations within the continental US and Alaska and puts projections for the middle and end of the century on top of historical averages.

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