NYC Goes After Exxon for Climate Damage

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New York City is not sleeping on climate change. The city is chasing international oil giant, ExxonMobil, as well as others in the industry, filing a lawsuit and also promising to drop billions in fossil fuel stocks.

To date, NYC is the largest American city to sue any big oil company, and it is going big, insisting that ExxonMobil, along with Chevron, Shell, BP, and ConocoPhillips absorb the cost of “protecting the city from the threat of climate change.”

To add threat to the lawsuit, the city said it would divest $189 billion pension systems from fossil fuel reserve owners over the next five years. That move would make NYC the first US city to move its pension plan away from fossil fuels.

According to CNN, the suit alleges NYC has “already suffered damage from climate change…” As evidence for that claim, the suit lists coastal erosion and tidal flooding among many other “imminent threats to property, infrastructure and the health and safety of its residents…”

NYC worries about being “exceptionally vulnerable” to rising sea levels, because the city doesn’t have the money to deal with the issue. That’s why they want “Big Oil to take responsibility for the devastation they have wrought…”

That statement was made by Mayor Bill de Blasio in a recent press conference. In the same conference, de Blasio placed the blame for extreme weather events, including Hurricane Sandy, on the changing climate. “We are going to lead the fight against climate change as if our lives depended on it… because they do…”

Some may wonder how NYC has grounds to sue Exxon and other oil companies for what has yet to happen, even if their actions did contribute to climate change… How can that be proven, and even if it could be, how would it lead to culpability?

NYC cites a recent Harvard study which argues Exxon “misled the public” for decades about the impact of climate change. Exxon has denied these findings. As for the lawsuit, Exxon said lawsuits being used to attack companies that “provide products we all rely on to power the economy and enable domestic life…”

Chevron called the suit, “factually and legally merit-less…” before adding the suit will do “nothing to address the serious issue of climate change.”

Shell, however, has issued a more measured response, saying climate change is a “complex societal challenge” and arguing the solutions to the threat must be “addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers…”

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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