The Litigation Labyrinth: Climate Torts and the Clew of Failure-To-Warn

By Sean Krieg.  

On April 1, 2021, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals told taxpayers to “shoulder[] the burden” of New York City’s climate mitigation expenses without any help from major fossil-fuel producers, marketers, or distributors. The court made this unfortunate assessment while affirming the dismissal of the City’s claims against oil and gas companies responsible for over eleven percent of all industrial methane and carbon pollution since the industrial revolution. The City had sued for financial assistance with the costs of protecting its residents from the impacts of the climate crisis—a crisis these companies played a major role in creating and aggravating. In its complaint, the City emphasized how these particular defendants deliberately obfuscated climate science to promote their products, despite their advanced understanding of the global harms resulting from burning fossil fuels. Even so, the court held that these oil and gas companies could face no liability under New York State law for the damages caused by their products.

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