A federal judge in California has ruled against the cities of San Francisco and Oakland in a landmark case, holding that large oil conglomerates are not financially liable for causing climate change.
“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” wrote U.S. District Judge William Alsup.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the two cities wanted Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil giants to bear the cost of remedies for a rising sea level, which they claim is caused by climate change and thus by fossil fuels. For example, the cities wanted the oil companies to pay for seawalls because “oil companies have long known that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are warming the planet.”
In a very conservative holding, Alsup rejected the notion, saying that it is up to federal regulators, not the courts, to use their expertise to implement such policy provisions. Alsup also noted that Americans, long having enjoyed the benefits of the products produced by the oil giants, would be hypocritical to turn on them now, forcing them to pay for what consumers demanded.
“Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded?” he wrote. “Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?”
The ruling is a win for private industry. Several other municipalities around the country were considering similar lawsuits. For now, the oil giants will be able to produce the products necessary for daily life in the first world without being hassled by pesky local governments looking to make a buck off of the climate change fad.
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