Big Oil Gets Sued for Climate Change

Mon, 2008-06-16 15:58Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Big Oil Gets Sued for Climate Change

The Tiny arctic village of Kivalina , Alaska could be the beginning of the end for Big Oil. Two veteran tobacco litigators have joined forces in a novel court action to sue oil companies for climate-related damage to the remote Inuit village – and for lying to the public about climate change.

Kivalina is a native community of less than 400 people on an island in the Bearing Sea that depends on salmon fishing and hunting. The village has been protected for generations by sea ice that shields the area from powerful winter storms. Less ice due to a rapidly changing climate has greatly increased the rate of erosion and storm damage, forcing the community to consider relocating at a cost of more than $400 million.

If this novel lawsuit proves successful it could spell big trouble for the fossil fuel industry. For decades, Big Oil has been using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for carbon dioxide. But as they say, there’s no free lunch.

Steve Susman and Steve Berman have been down this road before. These senior litigators were both involved some of the first successful lawsuits to hold tobacco companies accountable for the well-known health impacts of smoking.

These suits also resulted in billions of dollars in settlements and effectively brought Big Tobacco to their knees. A critical strategy of those court actions proving to the court that Big Tobacco conspired to conceal the dangers of their product from the public.

Sound familiar? Susman and Berman want to employ the same strategy against Big Oil. From a legal point of view, it is not enough to prove that burning fossil fuels is damaging to the environment. They must also demonstrate that Big Oil conspired to lie about their product to the public. They have a lot to work with.

For instance, ExxonMobil was specifically implicated by the Union of Concerned Scientists of funding a Big Tobacco-style
PR campaign to misinform the public on climate science.

While the fossil fuel lobby has been highly successful at delaying meaningful regulation around climate change, they may have over-played their hand. By investing so heavily in distorting public debate around climate change, they have given lawyers like Susman and Berman plenty of potential evidence to drag into the light of day.

Tort
lawyers like these are a uniquely vicious species, especially against industries with deep pockets that are selling dangerous products, and lying about it.

The tobacco industry deceived the public, government and media for decades about the dangerous side effects of using their product. Ring a bell? A series of public and private lawsuits against Big Tobacco have so far extracted about $10 billion annually in the US alone in settlements to pay for burdens of smoking on the health care system.

The difference is that Big Oil makes Big Tobacco look like a corner store. The fossil fuel industry worldwide is worth about $8 trillion annually. That is five to six times the size of the next biggest industrial sector – cars. Corporate pockets don’t get any deeper than that.

Potential legal settlements in future climate change lawsuits might be astronomically larger than comparatively puny tobacco settlements. The former chief economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern estimates that unabated climate change could shrink the global economy by up 20%. That works out to about $12 trillion each year. Those are the kind of numbers that make any tort lawyer lick their chops.

The irony of Big Oil’s propaganda campaign being their undoing is rich indeed. Keep an eye on this small but important lawsuit hailing from a tiny village in Alaska. Things could get interesting.

Previous Comments

Another case of litigous lawyers looking to hit the jackpot by opportunistically suing a well run and profitable company.

All I can say is … Good luck! … You’re going to need it. :)

= Corporate pockets don’t get any deeper than that. =

Precisely. And that is what this is all about. Money. Other peoples money. Especially corporate money. It doesn’t get any better for this for leftists looking to extort money from some “deep pockets”. It drives enviros nuts seeing Exxon continue to produce healthy profits selling a legal and non addictive product. This is the only way for lefties to get their hands on some of those piles of cash.

Mind you, if the lawsuit ends up being deemed frivolous, a judge just might order the lawyers involved to pay Exxon’s costs. Just a thought. :)

Same old inactivist talking point.

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http://frankbi.wordpress.com/ International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

Oh please.

Fern Mackenzie

Fern, are you suggesting, in a backhanded way, that consumption of petroleum products is an addiction? Are you addicted to heating your house? Do you prefer natural gas to much more polluting wood?

If you’re addicted to driving your car, there’s an easy way to kick the habit. Give up your pleasant rural lifestyle, junk your car and rent an apartment in Ottawa, close to a bus stop and a shopping centre. If that’s unaffordable, you are a well-educated professional - get a better job.

If your response is something like, “I like my present lifestyle, thank you very much”, stop nagging the rest of us about our subservience to “Big Oil”[tm].

Oh yeah, stop using anything made from or packaged in plastic. Can’t mess with the problem of addiction you know.

that I work from home, and go into the city MAYBE 3 times/month. My house is 700 sq ft, and heated in the most carbon efficient way I can manage (pitched my oil furnace three years ago). I am looking at ways to convert to solar for heating my house and water. I buy in bulk, meat from a local butcher, grow my own veggies, compost everything organic, take my own bags, avoid packaging and recycle what packaging I can’t avoid … My car leaves the driveway two or three times a week. Every decision I make is run through the filter of environmental impact.

My suggestion is not back-handed at all. Society is addicted to petroleum in all of its forms. Gas, plastics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals, heating oil, … and so on and so on. But we don’t have to stay hooked. We can adapt. We must adapt.

Fern Mackenzie

On the news this morning, they were promoting the “Green” diet which consisted of eating less beef/meat because, and get this… the gas produced from eating meat contributes to global warming……..

WTF?!?!

Whats next, a fart tax?

This whole thing has gone too far..

so tell me, paulie boy, who was lying to us? the “leftist lawyers”?, or the tobacco companies?

Leftist lawyers? I doubt it. Just the usual class action shysters trying for a big kill. Those slimey bastards have become a plague on American society and Canada is becoming infected too.

which ones were lying to us, paulie boy?

It’s really just asking the most profitable industry on Earth (nationalized in most of the world) to pay a partial social cost of their product.
Hitler’s Holocaust was well-run and profitble in the short-term. The cigarette manufacturers had a well-run campaign, many of the same lawyers and firms are utilized by big oil.
When corporations successfully lobby to halt science, that is grounds for nationalization in my books. The tailings ponds that exist in AB will cost about $25 billion to partially clean up. The Alberta Provincial government is stifling research into the 3x rate of cancer Northern AB residents incur as a result of tailings ponds. What is AB’s trust; has it hit $40 billion yet? AB hasn’t charted her freshwater resources. She isn’t charging oil companies for freshwater. She isn’t noticing that the real science of global warming will parch glacial runoff. She isn’t noticing that a single nuclear power plant to pay for oil sands fresh water requirements uses more freshwater (albeit returns it warmer) than the city of Calgary.

The 21st century will prove some industries should pay higher taxes or be nationalized entirely. VLT revenues. Big oil (after stifling science, not before; governments need transparent science to make decisions that benefit civilians). Coal. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Fast food. Processed food. I don’t mind paying extra for a beer; I know it increases health care costs. Why is the oil industry so self righteous? Not paying the social costs of your product, especially when you can afford to; that just makes the $50000/yr income earning Albertans a bunch of welfare bums in my books. Yeah, Conservatives and Republicans are greedy. Congratulations. Don’t need that ethics in the 21st century. There are enough evil people in the 3rd world to have to deal with this crap in Canada.

= When corporations successfully lobby to halt science, that is grounds for nationalization in my books. = - Phillip Huggan

What book would that be, The Communist Manifesto?

= The 21st century will prove some industries should pay higher taxes or be nationalized entirely. = - Phillip Huggan

Better yet, you could move to Venezuela Phillip. You get both nationalization AND poverty. You should feel right at home.

Ignoring that most countries have nationalized oil industries, and that in the USA the oil industry functions as the federal government in drafting oil policy, effectively nationalizing the USA federal government…and ignoring the USA government won’t allow foreign takeovers of their private firms (China’s stae-backed oil company was denied access to Exxon in 2005 and went to Iran instead)…yes, I’d prefer Communism control over oil to the American capitalism model. Not for most other industries though. For example, gambling on sports is illegal in the USA. To buy liquor in Manitoba, you go to a Provincial Crown store. Cigarettes are regulated. Before oil obstructed science I would’ve been ambivalent, but not after. Energy R+D has been cut in half under big oil’s watch.
For the record, if Greenland’s melt rate wouldn’t accelerate it wouldn’t be that big of a deal (melt in centuries). There is a very good chance it will accelerate (melt in decades), rendering your linear extropolations meaningless.

Follow the money trail, follow the money.

“That works out to about $12 trillion each year. Those are the kind of numbers that make any tort lawyer lick their chops.”

Makes every failed-Marxist-turned-environmentalist lick their chops too.

“Keep an eye on this small but important lawsuit hailing from a tiny village in Alaska.”

Sure, beats keeping an eye on, say, let’s see, the Tuvalu Islands. You remember the Tuvalu Islands don’t you? The island environmentalists claimed people were fleeing because of AGW?

Talking point, talking point, talking all the way…

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http://frankbi.wordpress.com/ International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

Hey everybody, I’m back. Did I miss anything? What’s happened to Tuvalu? Did sea levels recede or did the corals start growing faster or what? Is it suddenly out of danger and its inhabitants certain of a prosperous future there?

This research demonstrates previous ocean warming observations were wrong; the oceans are warming/expanding as fast as models predict. There are one of these for every finding that overestimates global warming, just not the same greedy oil lobby to loudly proclaim such undershoots.
http://www.physorg.com/news133019164.html

AFAIK, Tuvalu is scheduled to be evacuated in two decades or so and her citizens are wards of Australia. Before the island is eroded away by rising sea levels the freshwater table will be reduced to nothing, rendering the island uninhabitable.

Omigawd! Man the lifeboats!

Why do leftist twits believe any silly fairy story that the warmists propogate but ignore the observable evidence that, since the AGW scare began 20 years ago, sea levels worldwide have risen an average of about 3 cm. Nobody knows exactly why - it sure as hell isn’t due to melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps since, although more icebergs are being calved recently, the caps are thickening inland due to increased precipitation. That is, the ice mass is greater than it was when the first measurements were taken.

Idiots! Given a choice between political science and scientific observation, sensible people will choose observations. (And I don’t believe that the faithful are unaware of the data - they just don’t want to lose any stick with which to beat evil humanity).

ZOG go and read the reports and observations coming from the latest satellites. The GRACE satellites show that both Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice mass.

Ian Forrester

How much ice mass are they losing Ian? 1/10 of 1% or some other ridiculously low number like that which could just be a rounding error?

Paul S/G, why don’t you use a little bit of your brain (I know it is very small compared to most people) and find out these things for yourself?

It is very easy to do, just Google GRACE (I have even spelled it for you) and report back with what you find.

Oh no, what you find will prove that you are nothing but an arrogant, stupid fool, so I don’t expect you to tell us what you find.

Other sensible people who read this blog know all about the real science not the pseudo-science you believe in.

Ian Forrester

It’s a simple question Ian. What percentage of Greenland’s ice melted last year? And at the current rate of this accelerated melting, how many years would it take to completely melt?

I have asked this question numerous times and because the answer is non-alarmist, the alarmists never give the answer.

it’s the calving. Glaciers are moving faster, calving more bergs, generally dumping great chunks into the oceans that used to be on land. If you really care to learn about it, go to http://nsidc.org/ and do some reading. It’s fascinating.

Fern Mackenzie

Still doesn’t answer the question Fern.

What percentage of the Greenland icesheet is melting eacy year? If I was interested in calving, I would have asked about calving.

As it is, warmers never want to answer the straightforward question: What percentage has melted in the last year?

no answer will be good enough for you. You have to be able to understand the significance of melt versus calving. Both reduce the total volume of ice. One adds to sea level rise. One doesn’t. I don’t dare to debate the issue with someone who doesn’t know the difference.

Fern Mackenzie

Still doesn’t answer the question Fern.

What percentage of the Greenland icesheet is melting eacy year? If I was interested in calving, I would have asked about calving.

As it is, warmers never want to answer the straightforward question: What percentage has melted in the last year?

Why don’t you show us how clever you are, work it out for yourself. It is just simple arithmetic (simple for most of us anyway) there is no fancy physics or climate science involved.

Take a little bit of your time (you don’t do very much with it anyway) and spend about 5 minutes and you will have your answer.

It is quite alarming and is even more alarming when you realize that it will only melt faster and faster as the climate is more and more affected by increasing CO2 and it associated feedbacks.

You are a complete idiot if you can’t (or won’t) work things out for yourself.

Ian Forrester

I don’t think his mind is incapable of connecting the dots. I will try one final time:

1 Meltwater on the surface drains into crevasses and lubricates the bottom of the glacier like water under the blade of a skater

2 The glacier moves more quickly, sliding ice into the sea, where it calves into icebergs

3 Icebergs have a significantly increased surface area exposed to warmer air, and warmer water, causing them to melt faster than they would have had they remained attached to the glacier on land, and CONTRIBUTE TO SEA-LEVEL-RISE.

It doesn’t take much surface melt water to trigger a very large transfer of ice from the land into the sea, where (unlike the floating seasonal ice pack) its melt has an impact on sea level.

Fern Mackenzie

Steve L,

Corals thrive in warm water, and they grow a hell of a lot faster than the less than 2mm/yr that the ocean is rising. If they couldn’t keep pace with changes in sea level, there wouldn’t be ancient reefs more than 50 meters thick. If you were an earth scientist instead of a fishologist you’d understand such things. (Sorry - couldn’t resist.)

“Sorry” won’t do.
Actually, ZOG, it was Darwin and not earth scientists who figured out atolls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atoll . Futhermore, excessive warmth causes bleaching which is decidedly deleterious for coral growth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_bleaching . Lots of coral species like warm water, but they have to grow quickly to keep up with the sinking of the volcanic islands. Now they have to grow quicker, in a warmer and increasingly acidic sea.

Back to Tuvalu – so you’re saying Tuvalu is not in danger? Will you donate $1000 for the relocation of every Tuvaluan in a few decades if Phillip is right? (Write it into your will if you think the chances are so low.)

Finally, aren’t you wrong about glaciers gaining mass? Are you just choosing to ignore the observations?

= AFAIK, Tuvalu is scheduled to be evacuated in two decades or so and her citizens are wards of Australia. =

Uh, errr, incorrect on both counts. There is no “scheduled” evacuation at all.

Citizens are not wards of Australia. New Zealand has an annual residence quota available for 75 Tuvaluans under the Pacific Access Category but this is a work scheme and is not related to GW.

Nice try with your story though. The Tuvalu Myth will live on for years.

Provide evidence for these assertions.

I was hoping there would be evidence that the people of Tuvalu were “scheduled” for evacuation too. Some greenie made the whole story up it appears.

Since you failed to provide evidence, I assume that the statements you made above are lies.

Phillip Huggan made the unsubstantiated claims that Tuvalu residents are “scheduled” for evacuation in the next couple of decades VJ.

Nice to see you calling a warmer on his fabrication.

= For decades, Big Oil has been using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for carbon dioxide. =

Silly me. Here I thought that Exxon and their ilk were producers and you, me and millions more schmucks were the consumers who by our lifestyles actually put all this CO2 into the air.

= But as they say, there’s no free lunch. =

Oh yeah? Who said? Shaking down Exxon is the mother of all free lunches. Legal extortion, what a great racket to get into.

Keep regurgitating the same old talking points that you’ve been regurgitating the last few months while ignoring all the responses.

Nothing new.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
http://frankbi.wordpress.com/ International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

Seems on the face of it a great idea. Let’s hope all the denier trolls that patrol the interweb are implicated as accomplices.

Could be fun!

Further Potential Accomplices would presumably include every individual listed in the Union of Concerned Scientists report:
http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf

This would include, but not be limited to S. Fred Singer, Fred Seitz (dead, so no trial, I hope he’s at Beelzebub’s special spit-roast), Arthur Robinson, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Patrick Michaels, Steven Milloy, Myron Ebell & etc.

I hope that these and other deniers like Tim Ball (who doesn’t feature in the above UCSUSA report) are all dragged in and treated with the maximum severity permissible under the law!

always being dictated to by their customers.

They’d love to do the right thing and stop making all those dirty fossil-carbon based fuels, really, but their customers just won’t let them.

It’s just not their fault. And it’s certainly not their shareholders’ fault.

I know….: It’s the lawyers’ fault!

Is that about right, Paul?

God, you are a dumb f*ck.

The oil companies just want to eke out an honest living, while the greenies are part of a Marxist un-conspiracy!

Speaking of which: http://tinyurl.com/4m37fp :)

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
http://frankbi.wordpress.com/ International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

“God, you are a dumb f*ck.” -Exusian

Could be worse Exusian. I could be you. Even worse then that, I could be Ian!!

It remains true that too many environmentalists are just failed Marxists who see the green movement as another means of stealing someone elses property.

for every denialist who sees commies under every bed and behind every cause that might conceivably benefit the long-term health of the planet and everything that lives on it, I wouldn’t have to worry about my retirement. You guys amaze me, you really do. Any hint that you might actually have to behave in a way that takes other people into account is labelled “socialist”. Any attempt by a democratically elected government to curtail your “God-given” right to do whatever you please regardless of the consequences to your neighbours or the planet is a sign that the UN is trying to take over the world.

I’m not going to turn this into a diatribe (look it up), I will just leave you with the wish that you would look beyond yourself to the Big Picture.

Fern Mackenzie

“Any hint that you might actually have to behave in a way that takes other people into account is labelled “socialist”. -Fern

Behaving in a legally approved manner is the requirement of all of us Fern. But, failing to persuade their fellow citizens to commit to their extreme AGW agenda, some greens have taken the lower route: going for the big bucks.

To what big bucks are you referring? Who is getting rich off of AGW, exactly? Anybody profiting in the $billions, like Exxon? We all know that climate scientists are just rolling in government cash – why else would they compromise their careers by publishing papers that lend credence to the theory of AGW?

Oh, what the hell. Everybody’s in it for the money, right?

Fern Mackenzie

Why shouldn’t Exxon be earning many billions Fern? And since they do, why do greedy greens suddenly want to get their hands on Exxon’s money? It’s because quite a few greens are quasi-Marxists at heart; they can’t stand a corporation making money like Exxon.

It’s power Fern, the greens want to get their hands on the levers of power.

I’m sorry, but now you’re raving. “quasi-Marxists”? This is ridiculous.

Fern Mackenzie

You have to understand some of the history of Marxism and how elements of it have mutated and seeped into the environmental movement to understand what I’m saying Fern.

And for the record, I don’t “rave”, I rant. ;)

Hey, I’m all for sticking it to the oil companies, but we don’t exactly have much else to put in our tanks. If this law suit is even partially successful, then we’re looking at the beginning of the end for the oil industry.

Which is a good thing. A VERY good things, but

Which way do you think gas prices are going to go if this lawsuit gets everything they want it to get? In the short term, this will be very pointless if they lose and very messy if they win.

Not only that, but the oil industry has very deep pockets and even if this does hurt them, it will take a long time for it to do that. In the meantime, it will hurt the consumer who can’t put anything else in their gas tank and can’t afford the new fangled alternate fuel cars out there.

Should they not sue? Dunno. In the final analysis, it has to start somewhere, and it might as well be here, but it will get a LOT worse before it gets better. Just remember that.

Will G, it’s time to think about life without a car – life not organized around the freeway, but around a compact community served by a number of transportation options. The economy is not going to fall apart and the sky fall. There will be a social transformation that will generate economic activity, only the carbon economy dinosaurs will not profit from it if they don’t get with the program.

And all the happy, dancing children will gather around the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings.

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