“…the waters around Puerto Rico have warmed noticeably in recent years, leading to the rapid intensification that has made the storms so violent.” Powerful storms everywhere is what we are seeing right now, isn’t it, and hellfires too.
Last week I decided to address this issue in order to express my disagreement with the issue of scientific consensus on climate change, its causes and consequences. At the end I wrote: “I wonder if maybe The American court will have the last word.” Now I explain.
In 1997, California repealed a law that prohibited smokers from filing lawsuits against tobacco companies because it was assumed that the public was aware of the dangers of smoking. That same year, in an agreement with the government, the tobacco industry agreed to pay $368.5 billion over 25 years to repair the damage caused by nicotine addiction. In another case, they had to refund $11.3 billion to the state government for the same reasons. In 1998, a class-action lawsuit was filed against tobacco companies in Florida involving about 500,000 affected smokers. He demanded $200 million in damages. Advocate, Stanley Rossemblatt stated that “tobacco companies have acted dishonestly for over 40 years because they knew that the main substances in the ingredients of their products are addictive.”
In DePew, a small community on the shores of the lake of the same name in Illinois, USA, abandoned fields polluted the city. Nobody took responsibility. It was a zinc plant that closed in 1989, but dangerous amounts of lead, mercury, cyanide and cadmium were left in the ground. The city of 1,600 had one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the US, and residents suspected the plant was responsible for the increased rate of cancer. After years of legal maneuvering, in 2013 a settlement of nearly $1 million was reached with Exxon and other owners.
In another small town, Roxana, also in Illinois, an oil refinery contaminated the groundwater with benzene, a carcinogen, and the owners, Shell and ConocoPhillips, refused to clean it up. In 2017, companies had to pay almost $5 million.
These last two cases were handled by a lawyer Missy Sims (54 years old, Princeton, Illinois, Catholic). According to The New York Times (NYT, July 19, 2023, where I draw my information from), “he is one of the most unexpected legal figures to emerge as the world grapples with the devastating effects of global warming.” Sims currently works for Milberg, one of the world’s largest class action law firms.
In 2017, she was sent to Puerto Rico to file a case on behalf of local governments (municipalities) on issues related to drug addiction. Hurricane Maria hit a few months later. The terrible destruction on the island shocked Sims. Then he thought that another group of corporations was to blame, the fossil fuel companies warmed the planet and misled the public about global warming, making billions in the process.
The lawsuit is causing a stir, although it has not yet been filed. Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former state attorney general, likens the fossil fuel industry’s tactics to tobacco companies’ efforts to minimize the health effects of smoking. “The common thread is that someone is willing to lie for money,” he said.
Lawyer Sims explains how “beginning in the 1980s, companies, including Exxon, realized that fossil fuel emissions were rapidly warming the planet, but began a concerted effort to hide this information from the public.” He also explained “how they made a sophisticated lobbying effort to block emissions regulation. How they challenge the increasingly compelling science of climate change.” (This makes me think of the CO2 Coalition website)
The NYT article states: “(Hurricane) Maria has become more powerful and has dropped much more rain due to anthropogenic climate change, studies have shown. Hurricanes are becoming more destructive as atmospheric and water temperatures rise due to global warming, scientists say. And the waters around Puerto Rico have warmed up noticeably in recent years, leading to the rapid intensification that has made the storms so severe.” Powerful storms everywhere – that’s what we’re seeing right now, right? And hellfire too.
Sims does not believe that a settlement will be reached in this case due to the indiscriminate nature of the allegations. “If they come to an agreement with us, they will have to come to an agreement with the whole world,” he said.
We will patiently wait until “the American court has its last word.”
Francisco Diaz Rodriguez
Opinion on climate change