There is an old Albert Einstein saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Welcome to New York City’s never-ending attempt to sue and blame corporations for climate change. With new leadership in Gracie Mansion, it’s time to break this litigation insanity.
Earlier this year, outgoing Mayor de Blasio grabbed headlines when he announced the city was suing energy companies over climate change. This case is the city’s third climate lawsuit in the past 20 years — all based on variations of the fact that energy use emits carbon dioxide.
We all know climate change is a serious problem. It is a byproduct of modern society. Electrification, refrigerating food and cooling and heating homes were some of the greatest human health developments of the last century.
How we achieved those advancements in the first place is not how we are maintain them in the future. The only way to tackle climate change is to innovate new technologies that will allow us to source and use energy sustainably, among many other things.
The mayor’s lawsuits will do nothing to aid this transition or solve climate change. The previous lawsuits failed for good reason. The first was filed in 2004 by then-New York City Mayor Bloomberg. He joined several states in suing the nation’s major electric companies to try to get a court order against their operations.
The Supreme Court in 2011 unanimously rejected this case. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court, said judges should not get involved in setting national climate policy. Climate change is an important issue, and Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are “better equipped to do the job than individual district judges issuing ad hoc, case-by-case” decisions.
The city’s response? File more climate lawsuits — and get others to do the same. In 2012, the architects behind the city’s litigation put out a report saying they still believed “the courts offer the best current hope” for imposing their political agenda, which includes a carbon penalty. At a 2016 meeting in New York City, they said litigation also gives them a platform for creating a “scandal.”
New York then became the center of this litigation campaign. The state filed a lawsuit intended to drive the vilification of energy manufacturers. De Blasio filed the city’s second climate lawsuit, this time targeting energy manufacturers and saying they should have to pay billions of dollars to the city.
Read the full op-ed here.