May 07, 2020

How and why state and local governments are suing the fossil-fuel industry for the costs of adapting to climate change

Matthew J. Sanders

In article after article, in study after study, we learn that climate change and its impacts are much worse than we expect them to be. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported in 2019 that greenhouse-gas emissions, far from falling or even stabilizing, have risen by 1.5 percent per year in the last decade and reached a record high in 2018. In another report issued last year, UNEP and five other climate research organizations warned that we are now on track to burn 50 percent more fossil fuels than the amount that would limit global warming to 2°C. The effects will be (and already are) devastating. The New York Times reports that, in 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that by 2100 seas will rise between 1.8 and 3.2 feet, leading to frequent and severe erosion and flooding. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts the estimates at 5 and 8.2 feet, with even more dire consequences. In 2019, the IPCC warned that warmer oceans, combined with rising sea levels, are threatening local and global food supplies and generating unprecedented flooding and storms.

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