Climate Change and Cigarette Litigation:
How Consumer Protection Laws Will Eliminate Fossil Fuel Emissions
Litigating for Children's Right to a Stable and Healthy Climate

by Daniel Brouse
2016 and 2023

In 2016, I had said: What will create the change needed?
The oil industry is going to be like the tobacco industry. The consumers are going to claim they were misled about the dangers of burning fossil fuels and will file lawsuits against the oil companies. You will not be able to buy oil or get insurance at a reasonable price (similar to what happened to cigarette smokers, or oil could be banned altogether.)

In 2022, WGUR Massachusetts reported, "State attorneys general from around the nation, including here in Massachusetts, are suing fossil fuel companies over climate change. Late last month, the state s highest court rejected ExxonMobil's bid to dismiss a lawsuit by Attorney General Maura Healey. And yes, you've seen this movie before. The states took Big Tobacco to court, and they won. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement imposed tight restrictions on how tobacco companies can promote cigarettes, and requires tobacco makers to pay billions of dollars in damages to the states annually, for as long as they do business in the U.S."

Commonwealth v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
Massachusetts High Court Affirmed Denial of Motion to Dismiss Attorney General's Climate Change-Related Enforcement Action Against Exxon. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a trial court's denial of Exxon Mobil Corporation's (Exxon's) special motion to dismiss the Massachusetts Attorney General's enforcement action alleging that Exxon's communications with investors and consumers related to climate change constituted unfair and deceptive practices. Exxon filed the special motion under Massachusetts' anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) law, which protects parties exercising their right of petition. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the anti-SLAPP law did not apply to government enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General. The court found that this interpretation was grounded in the statutory language, the rules of construction applicable to enforcement of statutes against the Commonwealth, and the legislative history and purpose of the anti-SLAPP law.

In 2023, the BBC reported, "The findings add to ongoing pressure on the company over what it knew about climate change. Campaigners allege it spread misinformation in order to protect its business interests in fossil fuels and are suing the company in a number of US courts. ExxonMobil's private research predicted how burning fossil fuels would warm the planet but the company publicly denied the link."

The report published in Science will be used as evidence against ExxonMobil:
Assessing ExxonMobil s global warming projections

However, ExxonMobil continues to deny the facts. "This issue has come up several times in recent years and, in each case, our answer is the same: those who talk about how "Exxon Knew" are wrong in their conclusions," the company told BBC News.

"It really underscores the stark hypocrisy of ExxonMobil leadership, who knew that their own scientists were doing this very high quality modelling work and had access to that privileged information while telling the rest of us that climate models were bunk," Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University, told BBC News.

"Our analysis allows us for the first time to actually put a number on what Exxon knew, which is that the burning of their fossil fuel products was going to heat the planet by about 0.2C of warming every decade," says co-author Geoffrey Supran, associate professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Miami.

"Their excellent climate modelling was at least comparable in performance to one of the most influential and well-regarded climate scientists of modern history," Prof Supran said, comparing ExxonMobil's work to Nasa's James Hansen who sounded the alarm on climate in 1988.

Prof Oreskes said the findings show that ExxonMobil "knowingly misled" the public and governments. "They had all this information at their disposal but they said very, very different things in public," she explained.

The research, published in the academic journal Science, also suggests that ExxonMobil had reasonable estimates for how emissions would need to be reduced in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change in a world warmed by 2C or more.

Their scientists also correctly rejected the theory that an ice age was coming at a time when other researchers were still debating the prospect.

The findings add to ongoing pressure on the company over what it knew about climate change. Campaigners allege it spread misinformation in order to protect its business interests in fossil fuels and are suing the company in a number of US courts.

In June of 2023, Multnomah County, Oregon filed a lawsuit against oil companies to recover costs associated with responding to extreme weather events linked to climate change. The suit alleges the combined carbon pollution emitted by the oil companies was a substantial factor in causing and exacerbating the 2021 heat dome, killing 69 people in a county that typically has mild summers. The Oregonian reported, "The companies have known for decades about the harmful impact of fossil fuels on the climate but chose to deceive the public about the effects and continue to portray them as harmless to the environment."

"At the core, this lawsuit is about fairness and accountability for these giant oil companies who have record profits, who have known about the damage that their products do to our environment and who have been using pseudoscience, disinformation and outright lies for decades. They have prevented us from making the changes needed to protect our climate and protect our community," Multnomah County chair Jessica Vega Pederson said.

California v. Exxon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP
In September of 2023, the State of California filed the lawsuit for:

What we're asking the court to do:

Litigating for Children's Right to a Stable and Healthy Climate

Children have filed lawsuits worldwide against their governments over their basic human rights. Our Children's Trust reported:
In November 2013, hundreds of Dutch citizens, along with the Dutch Urgenda Foundation, sued their government to hold the state liable for failing to take measures to prevent dangerous climate change. The plaintiffs argued that under Dutch tort law, the State could be held liable for negligence due to its failure to adequately reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions in line with its previous international commitments to reduce emissions by 25-40% by 2020. They also argued that the government’s failure to achieve its GHG emission reduction commitments violated their fundamental rights to life, privacy and health under the European Code of Human Rights. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that the Netherlands was acting unlawfully towards the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs also sought injunctions ordering the Netherlands to limit its GHG emissions to a level of 40%, or at least 25% below 1990 levels before 2020 and to present to Parliament within 6 months a program of measures with corresponding budgets that would ensure such GHG emissions reductions. In June 2015, the Hague District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, imposing a 25% reduction of GHG emissions by 2020. The District Court's decision was upheld by both the Court of Appeals in October 2018 and the Netherlands Supreme Court in December 2019.

In August 2023, the Journal Nature reported:

Advocates for action on climate change won a major court victory in the United States this week. A district court judge ruled in Held v. Montana that Montana's Environmental Policy Act, which prohibits the state from considering the climate impact of proposed energy projects, violates the "right to a clean and healthful environment" promised by the state's constitution. Montana's attorney-general has vowed to appeal. The case was brought in 2020 on behalf of a group of 16 young people, now between 5 and 22 years old, and was litigated by Julia Olson at the non-profit law firm Our Children's Trust. Olson has been involved with dozens of climate cases since around 2010.

In September of 2023, six young people from Portugal filed a lawsuit against 32 governments, including all EU member states, the UK, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey. The youth claim their fundamental human rights to life, privacy, family life and to be free from discrimination are being violated due to governments' responsibility for climate change.

"What I felt was fear," says Claudia Duarte Agostinho remembering the extreme heatwave and fires that burned Portugal in 2017 killing over 100 people. "The wildfires made me really anxious about what sort of future I would have. I want a green world without pollution. I want to be healthy. I'm in this case because I'm really worried about my future. I'm afraid of what the place where we live will look like."

The BBC reported, "They accuse the countries of insufficient action over climate change and failing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions enough to hit the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The case is the first of its kind to be filed at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. If it is successful, it could have legally-binding consequences for the governments involved."

Climate Change Cliff's Edge

UPDATE: Lawsuit Over Violent Rain and Lower Moist Heat Stress Tolerance
On November 1, 2023, the Guardian reported:
When Kevin Jordan bought his seaside home in Hemsby, Norfolk, he was told it would be safe for a century. In the decade since, 17 of his neighbours' homes have had to be demolished, or have been swept away into the waters of the North Sea. His is now just 5 metres from the fast-crumbling cliff, isolated and unreachable by car after part of the road collapsed into the North Sea.

"The collapse of the road made so many more things a struggle," Jordan said. "From emergency services to bin collections, grocery shopping and even the post, it's been one thing after another. It feels like we're being forgotten up here."

In a care home 200 miles away, in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, lives Doug Paulley, a co-claimant in the case. "During last year's heatwaves in the UK, I practically had to hibernate to get through it, and couldn't venture outside," said Paulley. According to the Health Security Agency 2,803 excess deaths occurred during the summer of 2022. Those with medical conditions, older people and very young children were especially at risk.

And now, in a case believed to be the first of its kind, Jordan is taking the government to court, alleging its failure to set out lawful "adaptation objectives" in its latest plan is a breach of his human rights.

The Human Induced Climate Change Experiment

The Philadelphia Spirit Experiment Publishing Company
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