By Karen Savage
Climate-related lawsuits—like any litigation—can seem far removed from those who are most directly impacted.
Municipalities filing climate change-related lawsuits have outlined why they believe fossil fuel companies have violated the law. They’ve described climate damage done to local infrastructure and why a warming atmosphere creates dangers to public health, property and livelihoods and why the industry should compensate for those harms.
But until recently, the suits have not mentioned that climate change does not impact all communities equally.
That changed last week, when attorneys general in Minnesota and Washington D.C. honed in on the disproportionate impact climate change is having on low-income communities and communities of color as they filed lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies.
First up was Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who sued Exxon, three Koch Industries entities and the American Petroleum Institute for deceiving the public about the risks their products pose to the climate.
“Minnesota is in the midst of a climate-change crisis,” Ellison wrote in the complaint, which was filed in Minnesota state court. “The world has already warmed approximately two degrees Fahrenheit due to human-caused climate change; Minnesota has warmed even more. Warming will continue with devastating economic and public-health consequences across the state and, in particular, disproportionately impact people living in poverty and people of color.”
Washington D.C. attorney general Karl Racine echoed Ellison’s emphasis on the disproportionate impacts in a lawsuit filed the next day in Washington’s Superior Court against ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell for climate deception.
“The District will continue to experience flooding, extreme weather, and heat waves exacerbated by climate change, with particularly severe impacts in low-income communities and communities of color,” wrote Racine in his complaint.[Read more…]