In 1998 tobacco companies in the USA were forced to stop advertising to youth, restrict product placement in media, and fund anti-smoking campaigns. They were also forced to pay over $200 billion over 25 years. The lawsuit was based on the idea that since they caused the health crisis, they should have to pay for it.
It looks like the same thing is going to happen to fossil fuel companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. These climate change lawsuits are worth billions of dollars and could set powerful legal precedents.
“Big oil knew for decades that greenhouse gas pollution from their operations and their products were having a significant and detrimental impact on the earth’s climate. Instead of working to reduce that harm, these companies chose to conceal the dangers, undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engage in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products and ever-increasing revenues in their pockets.”
“But a complicating factor is that every tier of government has pursued policies that have encouraged the use of fossil fuels, from building highways to subsidizing airports to constructing greenhouse gas-emitting power plants. So if an oil and gas company can be held liable for carbon dioxide emissions, so too can governments, power companies, and automakers.”
Fossil fuel companies believe that these lawsuits are a waste of time and money and it would be more productive to directly mitigate emissions.