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California Counties Sue Big Oil for Sea Level Rise Damages

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California Counties Sue Big Oil for Sea Level Rise Damages
Marin Sea Level Rise / Facebook

Three California municipalities filed lawsuits Monday against 37 of the world's biggest fossil fuel companies, including Chevron, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell. The legal challenges, brought by Marin and San Mateo counties and the city of Imperial Beach, allege that the companies knew about the harm of burning fossil fuels and therefore should pay for current and future damages to the municipalities due to climate change.


The suit also alleges the fossil fuel companies launched a "coordinated, multi-front effort" to discredit climate science and spread doubt.

"Sea level rise is here and we're experiencing it first hand in Marin, as roadways continually flood with king tides and storms," Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears said in a statement.

As reported by the Marin Independent Journal, Sears was asked if the lawsuits were inspired by litigation against the tobacco industry that state attorneys general initiated in the 1990s:

"You could certainly think of it that way, because a lot of what these fossil fuel companies did was modeled after what the tobacco companies did."

"Instead of taking steps to actually do something about the impact of their product," Sears said, "they launched this multimillion dollar lobbying campaign to discredit scientific evidence about climate change."

For a deeper dive:

AP, Marin Independent Journal, SF Gate, CBS SF, SF Weekly, San Diego Union Tribune. Commentary: Sabin Center, Michael Burger analysis

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

The Forest Vixen's CC Photo Stream. Flickr / CC BY 2.0


Spring is coming. And soon, tree swallows will start building nests. But as the climate changes, the birds are nesting earlier in the spring.


"It's getting warmer overall. They're thinking, OK, it's a good time to breed, to lay my eggs," says Lily Twining of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany.

She says that despite recent warming, late-season cold snaps remain common. Those cold snaps can harm newborn chicks.

Hatchlings cannot regulate their body temperature, so they are vulnerable to hypothermia. And the insects they eat stop flying in cold weather, potentially leaving the chicks to starve.

"These chicks are growing very, very fast," Twining says. "They have very high energy demands, so… if they don't get a lot of that good high-quality food during this pretty specific time… that's when these cold weather events seem to be most devastating."

For example, data from Ithaca, New York, shows that a single cold snap in 2016 killed more than 70% of baby tree swallows.

"And there have been more and more of these severe cold weather die-off events for these tree swallows as they've been breeding earlier and earlier over the past 40 or so years," Twining says.

So for these songbirds, earlier springs can come with devastating consequences.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy / ChavoBart Digital Media

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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