Cities across the country have brought novel lawsuits seeking to hold oil companies responsible for climate change—in particular, the city’s cost to adapt to rising seas and other climate change impacts. Although property owners can generally sue those who damage their property, these cases are unusually complicated because of the number of contributors to climate change and uncertainty about where it’s impacts will be felt, when, and how costly they will be.
On June 26th, a federal court dismissed the first of these lawsuits, brought by two California cities. This is a significant setback for the cities pursuing this approach and signals similar results in the other cases.
The cases have been controversial, to put it mildly. Earlier this year, the Niskanen Center’s David Bookbinder (who represents Boulder, Colorado in one of these suits) and R Street Institute’s Josiah Neeley and William Murray had a thoughtful debate about using the…
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