California has filed a lawsuit against major oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP, accusing them of misleading the public and downplaying the risks of using fossil fuels. The civil lawsuit aims to hold these companies accountable and calls for the creation of a fund funded by them to support recovery efforts after devastating storms and fires.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Big Oil has been lying to the public for more than 50 years and hiding the dangers of fossil fuel production, which have led to damage such as wildfires, toxic smoke, heat waves and droughts. The 135-page lawsuit argues that these companies knew since the 1960s that burning fossil fuels would lead to climate change, but intentionally downplayed that knowledge in public statements and marketing campaigns.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies waged a disinformation campaign in the 1970s to discredit the scientific consensus on climate change and cast doubt on the risks involved. It also says that scientists at these companies have been fully aware of catastrophic climate impacts since the 1950s, and highlights the narrow window of opportunity available to communities and governments to respond.
Both the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group named in the lawsuit, and Shell issued statements indicating that climate policy should be debated in Congress, not the courts. Shell added that tackling climate change requires a collaborative approach and recognizes the need for a transition to a lower-carbon future.
The California lawsuit joins a series of similar legal actions taken by states and local governments in recent years. The lawsuit aims to hold oil companies accountable for decades of deception and bring justice to communities facing the consequences of climate change.