• State of California sues major oil and gas entities over climate damage

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

In interesting developments in California, the Financial Times reports that the state government has begun a civil lawsuit against oil and gas organisations including ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and the American Petroleum Institute to seek damages to help pay the costs of climate change.

At the heart of the claim is that such oil and gas companies intentionally deceived the public as to the effects the use of their products would have on the planet, suppressing information as to those effects from as early as the 1950s. This deception resulted in a delay on combating climate change, according to the State of California, and hence the oil and gas companies should pay.

The lawsuit follows a recent state law passed that obliges major greenhouse gas polluters to calculate and disclose greenhouse gas emissions related to the supply and use of their products.

The new Californian lawsuit adds to more than 40 climate-related current lawsuits brought by US states against oil and gas companies. The scale of possible payments would be enormous, one would think, and the knock-on effects of such payments would be difficult to predict. According to a recent peer-reviewed analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, around 37% of the forest area burnt in fires in the western US and south-western Canada since 1986 could be attributed to fossil fuel and cement production, which gives some idea of the scale of the damages.

How the lawsuit progresses will be important not only for the US but for the world as a whole.