U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup this evening dismissed the climate change case filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against five oil companies.
"The scope of the plaintiffs' theory is breathtaking," Alsup wrote in his ruling. "...anyone who supplied fossil fuels with knowledge of the problem would be liable."
Alsup said further that the science of climate change is not at issue.
"All parties agree that fossil fuels have led to global warming and ocean rise and will continue to do so," he wrote, "and that eventually the navigable waters of the United States will intrude upon Oakland and San Francisco."
However, because the causes and dangers of global warming are worldwide, Alsup wrote, the remedy for the issue properly belongs in the legislative branch, not in the courts.
I have only had a minute to skim Judge Alsup's decision dismissing Oakland/SF climate nuisance cases, but this is the key graf, seems to me -- a global problem, says the judge, requires a global solution, and that's beyond the courts' power to provide pic.twitter.com/cOydRUmFvi
— Mike Burger (@ProfBurger) June 26, 2018
"The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case," Alsup wrote.
The lawsuit aimed to hold Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips responsible for the costs of adapting to sea level rise and other climate change burdens.
The city attorneys in Oakland and San Francisco said in separate statements that they're disappointed and are reviewing the ruling and considering their options.
"These defendants must be held accountable for misleading the American people about the catastrophic risks to human beings and all forms of life on this planet caused by fossil fuel-driven global warming and sea level rise," said Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker.
A spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney's office said they're pleased the court recognized that the science of global warming is not in dispute.
"Our litigation forced a public court proceeding on climate science, and now these companies can no longer deny it is real and valid," said press secretary John Coté. "Our belief remains that these companies are liable for the harm they’ve caused."
Lawsuits in Washington and New York make federal claims similar to the arguments in the Oakland and San Francisco case, and their fates are now in doubt. Claims under different legal theories brought by other California cities continue to move through state and federal courts.