A New York judge last week soundly rejected a lawsuit by that state’s Attorney General that cuts the legs out from climate lawsuits by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and other governments. The New York lawsuit, which sought up to $1.6 billion from ExxonMobil, was widely hailed as “the trial of the century” by those advocating legal action against energy manufacturers over climate change.
Global climate change is one of the defining political issues of our time, and for good reason. There are urgent, widespread efforts to figure out how to mitigate the impacts of modern society on our planet. This includes sourcing and using traditional energy more efficiently, finding ways to capture or suppress the release of greenhouse gases, and developing sustainable renewable energy.
Several years ago, some climate activists decided that the best way to try to steer this debate to their desired policies was to vilify energy manufacturers. Their goal, an internal email showed, was to get their friends in government to “delegitimize” the companies, their workers, and supporters as political actors. They met with then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and several mayors around the country.
What followed was a series of investigations and lawsuits seeking to reinforce this vilification—regardless of whether the allegations were true. Healey launched an investigation, saying ExxonMobil misled consumers about climate change. Rhode Island filed a lawsuit against a bunch of oil and gas manufacturers, saying they should pay for climate-related local infrastructure projects for illegally “conceal[ing] the dangers” of climate change.
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