California Scheming: Climate Lawsuit Claims Contradict Government Sale Pitches

In a commentary published on the Fox News website, National Center Senior Fellow Horace Cooper and John Yoo noted that “California cities are learning the meaning of hypocrisy” when it comes to climate change politics. Despite suing energy companies for allegedly lying about potential factors such as rising sea levels due to their business, officials “have no idea whether the climate is changing and whether it will have any effect on their citizens” when they are pitching investors.

California cities such as San Francisco and Oakland are suing ExxonMobil and other energy companies for damages on the notion that they are causing climate change that will raise sea levels and diminish local property values.

Horace and Yoo, who is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that there are some major discrepancies in the way government officials talk and the way they walk on the issue:

  • “Put aside for the moment the absurdity of pinning sole responsibility for the effects of climate change on a handful of companies. Climate change is a worldwide phenomenon to which human activity for decades, if not centuries, has contributed. Scholars continue to argue how much global temperatures will change in the future, which conduct is responsible, and whether reducing it is worth the costs in reduced economic growth. Californians have certainly not restrained themselves in the cause of climate control: they have a love affair with driving, especially Angelenos, many of whom seem to hate public transportation almost as much as they hate ‘big oil.’”

  • “Can the lawsuits even show how much Exxon has individually contributed to changes in global temperature? If San Francisco and Oakland are suing Exxon, why don’t they also sue every company in China and India? The economic growth of these two developing giants no doubt has contributed far more to global warming than any American company or the United States in general.”

  • “Instead, consider the hypocrisy laid bare this week in an Exxon court filing. It points out that many of the California towns and cities took the exact opposite position in their municipal bond offerings. When borrowing money, they took pains to insulate themselves from liabilities stemming from climate change when offering bonds to investors. Some said they had no way to predict accurately risk related to rising sea levels or climate change or simply failed to mention such risks. Apparently, these cities and towns believe it is better to tell the truth to the markets in New York City than to judges and jurors in court.”

An example that Horace and Yoo provide is how officials in Santa Cruz told potential investors that “the county may be subject to unpredictable climate conditions.” Its lawsuit, however, proclaimed “a 98% chance that the County experiences a devastating three-foot flood before the year 2050…” “May” and “98% chance” – that’s quite a difference is prediction.

“These contradictions only underscore the highly political origin and motivation of the city lawsuits,” said Horace and Yoo.

To read the commentary in its entirety, click here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.