By Maddie Connell & Caleb Radtke
Climate change has been a growing concern for the past few years not only for politicians but for citizens who truly care about our environment. As of right now, there has been a dreadfully disappointing amount of awareness surrounding the issue, and while our polar ice caps continue to melt and the Amazon rainforest converts into more desolate, arid fields, nothing seems to be happening to combat climate change. However, just recently, a spark of hope lit up the courts of San Francisco. On March 7th, a San Francisco judge declared to give climate change an official hearing in court by holding what could be the “first-ever U.S. court hearing on the live science of climate change” (Stuart). The proceeding, which will be heard by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, is for a lawsuit which is being brought up by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco against some of the world’s largest oil companies including Shell, Exxon Mobil, and BP in an attempt to join an emerging legal effort to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damages wrought by the rising sea level. Both of the cities are asking the fossil fuel companies to pay billions of dollars in compensation for not only past but future flooding, coastal erosion, and property damage resulting from climate change.
So you may be wondering: if the cities and their people are angry about climate change, why are they targeting large fossil fuel companies? Doesn’t that seem like a hopeless battle? Well, the suits filed claim that a slate of oil, gas, and coal producers not only caused the heat-trapping gases that drove worrying sea level rises but that they did so knowingly; a challenge similar to litigation against big tobacco companies back in the 1990s. California has been facing a plethora of financial problems that come with climate change, and those are not going to diminish any time soon. They have faced an increase in flooding which has caused severe property and road damage, so much of the money that the fuel companies are being sued for will be put towards adapting to the rapid growth of climate change, such as the building of sea walls.
During the 5-hour hearing which will be taking place on March 21, both sides will have the chance to be heard and to present their views on climate change and its history to Court Judge William Alsup, where they hope to impart their understanding of the issue and how it should be addressed in the recent future.