Contact: Ed Potosnak
O: (609) 331-9922
C: (732) 991-7574
If you’ve been watching, listening or reading the news lately, you probably feel like you’re stuck in a B-rated horror movie that you can’t wait to end. Everywhere you turn there’s another climate catastrophe, from smoldering fires on the West Coast, derecho storms in the Midwest with winds over 100 miles an hour, to hurricanes in the Southeast. On top of that, a recent Rutgers University report shows that this year New Jersey experienced one of the hottest summers on record.
The evidence is clear that burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal releases greenhouse gases into the air, causing our planet to get warmer and our climate to change, producing weather events with greater intensity and frequency.
New Jersey is warming faster than the global average and faster than the rest of the Northeast. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recently released a scientific report detailing a vast array of effects that climate change is causing and predictions for changes we can expect in our everyday lives in the coming years. New Jersey could experience increased frequency and intensity of storms, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and the associated impacts to the ecological systems, natural resources, human health and the economy.
Fortunately, some local leaders have had enough and are fighting back. Nine cities and counties, from New York to San Francisco, have sued major fossil fuel companies seeking compensation for climate change damages. Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla has joined the ranks of those who are fighting back. He recently announced that Hoboken will sue ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies. Holding polluters accountable is exactly what climate leadership looks like, and we should all congratulate Mayor Bhalla for helping lead this fight.
Hoboken is now experiencing what would have been a 50-year-occasional flood every few months. The city has spent millions of dollars on mitigation measures over the past decade, which are helping protect families and businesses. But as climate change exacerbates severe weather events, flooding is becoming more frequent. The North Hudson Sewage Authority estimates that Hoboken would need to replace the entire sewer system at an estimated cost of $3 billion to prevent the most severe flooding. That’s an amount the city cannot afford on its own, nor should taxpayers be forced to pay for corporations' reckless acts. It is only fair to make polluters pay.
The litigation, reinforced by science, has the potential to reshape the way we think about energy production and the consequences of global warming. It advocates a shift from fossil fuels to clean energy and draws attention to the vulnerability of coastal communities and infrastructure to extreme weather and sea level rise.
The Hoboken lawsuit and others should not come as a surprise to the fossil fuel companies. They’ve known all along that their products harmed the planet. ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company, was aware of climate change as early as 1977, eleven years before it became a public issue, according to a report from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent ExxonMobil and the other fossil fuel companies from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and distorting the truth.
To make matters worse, climate change is inherently a major equity issue – those who have contributed the least are impacted the most, with people of color being the most vulnerable and disproportionately bearing the burden. Black and brown communities suffer from higher rates of asthma, heart disease and other illnesses from exposure to polluted air caused by burning fossil fuels.
The time is now for the fossil fuel companies to own up to their dishonesty. They must pay for the health care costs our society has incurred from breathing toxic fumes, and they must pay to rebuild the communities they’ve harmed.
Don’t expect change to happen overnight. The fossil fuel special interest have deep pockets and benefit from our reliance on fossil fuels – they won’t go down without a fight. That’s why we need to do all we can to take on climate change and create a 21st century clean energy future to keep New Jersey livable for us, our children, and grandchildren. We applaud Mayor Bhalla and others who are leading the charge to combat climate change and hold polluters accountable, and call on other New Jersey leaders to join him in this fight.