Climate change has done a great deal of damage to cities in the U.S. and abroad—every year the environment is harmed is another year communities have to deal with serious problems including damaged infrastructures, hindered economies, and diminished supplies of food and other essentials. This raises a key question: is it possible for cities to take action against the corporations responsible?
According to The Verge, this is starting to look like a real possibility. Because it’s now easier for scientists to link both major weather disasters and more subtle long-term trends to climate change, it’s impossible to identify companies that have caused such problems and file lawsuits to collect damages. For one example, the publication reported on Santa Cruz, Calif., where flooding has caused damage to coastal roads and utility pipes have been destroyed, among other issues.
“We’ve never had storm damage like that before,” said Ryan Coonerty, a county supervisor in Santa Cruz. “At the end of the day, this is going to be billions of dollars in damage to public infrastructure. And the question is, are the oil companies going to stick the public with the bill after they’ve reaped untold profits and lied to us?”
Santa Cruz is hoping to collect $140 million in damages. Neighboring San Mateo, meanwhile, anticipates it will need to spend billions in the long run on seawalls and other infrastructure to protect itself against flooding.
Scientific advancement is playing a major role in making it easier to build these sorts of legal cases. City officials in Santa Cruz have evidence of many climate change-related trends such as rising sea levels, increased droughts, heightened risk of wildfires and several other issues that could lead to financial damages.
If Santa Cruz is successful in suing the oil companies and other polluters, we may well see bigger cities follow suit. The Verge also reported that officials in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and Phoenix are considering taking similar action.