U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Accepts Global Warming, Rejects Cities' Lawsuit

The federal district court in San Francisco recently rejected the City of San Francisco and City of Oakland's lawsuit against several major oil companies. The cities vow that the case is not over, signaling a likely Ninth Circuit appeal.

The case claims that the oil companies produce and sell the oil with full knowledge that it is harming the environment, causing climate change and rising sea levels. The cities sought to hold the companies liable for the future damages that climate change is expected to bring about, particularly if nothing is done to change course. Though Judge Alsup dismissed the case, the ruling isn't all bad for environmental advocates.

Climate Change Is Real

Significantly, Judge Alsup explained that the science on climate change is solid. However, he seemed to take issue with how a court can redress what he sees as a problem in need of national and international intervention in order to be effective. He explains how the theory of liability would effectively render every oil producer, worldwide, liable.

After explaining how climate research dates back over a 100 years and positively shows climate change is real, he tempers the case against the oil companies by also explaining that it's not all on them, just mostly:

The science acknowledges that causes beyond the burning of fossil fuels are also at work. Deforestation has been and remains a significant contributor to the rise in carbon dioxide. Others include volcanoes and wildfires in greater numbers. Nevertheless, even acknowledging these other contributions, climate scientists are in vast consensus that the combustion of fossil fuels has, in and of itself, materially increased carbon dioxide levels, which in turn has materially increased the median temperature of the planet, which in turn has accelerated ice melt and raised (and continues to raise) the sea level.

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