California cities sue oil giants over rising seas

Two California cities have filed separate lawsuits against five oil companies, seeking billions of dollars to protect against rising sea levels caused by climate change.

The suits were filed on Wednesday by San Francisco and Oakland in California state courts, Kallanish Energy reports. Named defendants were Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

The lawsuits ask the courts to hold the five companies responsible for the cost of sea walls and other infrastructure necessary to protect San Francisco and Oakland from ongoing and future consequences of climate change and rising sea levels caused by the companies’ production of fossil fuels over many years.

The suits mirror 1980s’ suits against the tobacco industry, with the cities claiming the oil giants knowingly and recklessly created a public nuisance that is causing harm now to human life and property, the two cities said, in a statement.

“These fossil fuel companies profited handsomely for decades while knowing they were putting the fate of our cities at risk,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

The rising sea level threatens $49 billion in public and private property in San Francisco alone, the city says.

Chevon, Shell and ExxonMobil told Reuters they deny wrongdoing and said climate change should be dealt with by government policy and cultural changes, not the courts.

ConocoPhillips declined comment and BP did not respond.

The suits are another example of growing legal action against oil companies over climate change. Prosecutors in Massachusetts and New York are, for example, investigating ExxonMobil over whether it misled investors in public statements over climate change.