Column / Harder Line

The flawed climate gambit against big oil

Illustration of oil barrel being pricked with needles
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

New York City and several California municipalities are suing big oil companies, alleging they concealed what they knew about climate change and are liable for billions of dollars of damage caused by rising global temperatures.

Why that’s flawed: The strategy is based on the 1990s lawsuits against tobacco companies, which found they concealed and misrepresented what they knew about the health effects of cigarettes. But climate change is a global problem we’re all collectively causing by burning products owned by fossil-fuel companies. What’s more, the legal roots of these claims today are untested and unlikely to succeed, lawyers supportive of the effort say.