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CAN BIG OIL BE SUED FOR CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING?

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New York City and a number of California municipalities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have filed lawsuits against five major oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—for contributing to the increased risk of global warming.

These complaints cite recent scientific reports that project that sea levels will rise from 0.2 meters to 2.0 meters (or 0.66 to 6.6 feet) by 2100, with a major loss of land surface area and serious climate disruptions.

They further allege that the “Defendants had full knowledge that the fossil fuels would cause catastrophic harm.”

The complaints rely chiefly upon public nuisance law, which prohibits unreasonably interfering with public rights in air and water through discharges of dangerous substances—in this instance, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

These cities are demanding that each oil company named in the complaint contribute to an abatement fund to counteract the perceived future threats to the environment from global warming.

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