In a simultaneous contradiction, it appears that oil companies likely concealed knowledge of the negative effects of fossil fuel combustion while actively protecting their infrastructure from rising sea levels.
A number of citizen groups and government agencies have filed lawsuits recently, asserting that fossil fuel producers knowingly subjected the public to the destructive impacts of their industry’s actions.
The latest organization to hold the oil industry accountable is The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. In a suit filed on November 14, fishermen in California and Oregon explain that warming water and the resultant growth of algae has damaged the Dungeness crab fishery, pointing directly to the fossil fuel industry’s role.
Since 2014, scientists in the Pacific Northwest have charted dramatic temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean. Warmer temperatures have caused toxic algae blooms that can make shellfish unsafe for consumption by humans and other wildlife—specifically algae that produce the neurotoxin domoic acid. The toxic conditions have, on several occasions, delayed the opening of crab season or closed it down completely.
The executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Noah Oppenheim, told NPR’s Alastair Bland that the 2015–2016 crab fishing closure resulted in direct financial losses that caused a number of boats to leave the fishery. Subsequent closures, also caused by domoic acid concerns, have further strained the Pacific Coast’s $445 million industry.
Additional studies have emerged recently which suggest that fossil fuel companies were aware that their industries were contributing to climate change while actively promoting public relations campaigns to misinform the public and discourage the development of alternative energy sources.
The city of Baltimore filed suit against 26 companies in July for concealing the dangers of fossil fuel combustion and preventing the development of alternative energy sources. Similar suits have been filed from the states of Rhode Island and California.
What are your thoughts? What level of responsibility should fossil fuel producers assume? Going forward, what role do you think the energy industry can play in reversing climate change?