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Climate change lawsuits seek to hold corporations accountable | READER COMMENTARY

A water meter stands in a dry wetland in Doñana natural park, southwest Spain, Oct. 19, 2022. Environmental leaders are gathering in Montreal to hammer out a framework they hope will help provide much-needed protection for the world's biodiversity. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

Phil Goldberg claims to want an “honest dialogue” about lawsuits that seek to hold major fossil fuel companies accountable for their well-documented, decades-long campaign to lie to the American public about climate change and make these polluters pay their fair share of the resulting costs (”Climate change lawsuit won’t succeed — or help Baltimore County,” Dec. 2). But his arguments are simply more fossil fuel-funded deception and disinformation.

That’s because Goldberg, a former coal lobbyist, now “leads the fossil fuel industry’s campaign to distract Americans from the scene of the crime and embrace big oil as a necessity in the struggle to contain global heating,” as reported by The Guardian. His employer, the National Association of Manufacturers, was identified in a U.S. Senate report as the single most obstructive trade group on climate policy.


Here are the facts: Major oil companies knew decades ago that their products would cause the climate crisis. They pushed climate denial and misleading junk science to protect their own profits, costing us precious decades in the fight against climate change. Now, the rest of us are paying the price for the industry’s climate deception as local governments and taxpayers face massive bills to protect residents from rising seas, scorching heat waves and other extreme weather that’s become intensified by global warming.

But in Maryland and across the country, communities are fighting back. Goldberg conveniently neglected to mention that Baltimore, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County have already taken the polluters who caused this crisis to court, and they’ve won a series of rulings that have allowed their cases to proceed toward trial. Dozens of judges have considered the arguments put forward by Goldberg and other Big Oil lawyers, and they have unanimously rejected every single one. That’s because — in the words of U.S. District Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander, in a ruling for Baltimore — the oil and gas defendants push a “mischaracterization” of climate accountability lawsuits. To claim these cases seek to solve climate change, as Goldberg does, is like saying that lawsuits against tobacco companies sought to cure lung cancer. In reality, they both aim to hold corporations accountable for lying about the harm they knew their products would cause.


But Goldberg can’t admit that because, in the immortal words of Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

— Richard Wiles, Frederick

The writer is president of the Center for Climate Integrity.

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