There is a potentially revolutionary way to make the fossil fuel industry pay for its climate crimes, with a pretty good track record. It worked against Big Tobacco. It has been used against organized crime, gangs, corrupt police departments, even fifa. It is a small legal statute known as richor the Corrupt and Racketeer Influenced Organizations Act of 1970. This statute has been used successfully to prosecute organizations for a wide range of alleged crimes, from tax evasion to mail fraud, money laundering, and drug trafficking.

recently, 16 Municipality of Puerto Rico filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against fossil fuel companies including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Arch Coal, alleging that they colluded to suppress evidence of climate change, the devastating impacts of which include 2017’s Hurricane Maria.

If the RICO Act were successful against Big Tobacco in 2006 for “a decades-long conspiracy to mislead the public about the risks of smoking in order to maintain their profits.” Could the same logic be used again here? I certainly hope so.

The similarities are eerily familiar. The fossil fuel giants not only deployed the same deceptive tactics, they even hired the same public relations companies as Big Tobacco in an apparent attempt to mislead the public about the dangers of their products.

Recent Headlines read that “Exxon knew” that its products were causing global climate change for nearly half a century. This, of course, has been a part of climate discourse since at least Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s 2014 book “merchants of doubt“exposed it. But what’s new is exactly how resourceful they were. HAS new study in the journal Science published by Harvard researchers found that, as of the late 1970s, “63 to 83 percent of the climate projections reported by ExxonMobil scientists were accurate in predicting subsequent global warming.” His weather models were even more accurate than from NASA. Let that sink in.

Armed with information that could save countless lives and our planet from imminent doom, they did exactly what you’d expect. No, not to take action, alert the authorities or try to use your significant financial power and technical progress to start developing solutions. However, Big oil companies reportedly spent millions of dollars in a global campaign of public deception that spanned decades to make science seem unclear that climate change was real and cast doubt on the role of fossil fuels. Your updated playbook seems to be accepting the reality of climate change caused by fossil fuels, but insists that fossil fuels are necessary to address energy poverty and provide resilience to climate change.

Similarly, the big tobacco companies I knew for decades that cigarettes were addictive, as well as the health risk, including premature death, but spent millions to misinform the public. HAS RICO landmark case in 2006 he found them guilty of civil fraud and racketeering, and conspiracy to deceive the public, which is why the federal RICO case against fossil fuel companies looks promising.

But the successful legal action against Big Tobacco didn’t start at the federal level. It started at the state level.

In 1994, Congress had CEOs from Big Tobacco testify in public, stating that they did not believe their products were addictive. This led to a massive public outcry for legal action. But because legal action seemed unlikely to win at the federal level, attorneys general from 46 states, the District of Columbia and five US territories filed separate lawsuits against Big Tobacco. This approach led to a historic master settlement agreement in 1998 in which Big Tobacco was forced to pay billions of dollars to states each year.

If the current case ends up in the Supreme Court, it’s hard to imagine the court ruling clearly and firmly against Big Oil. (Interestingly, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s father he reportedly spent three decades as a lawyer at Shell Oil and was a respected fellow at the American Petroleum Institute).

That’s why the multi-pronged approach taking shape, including congressional hearings, state lawsuits and Puerto Rico’s federal RICO case, has promised.

In addition to the RICO case, the Center for Climate Integrity which tracks weather cases in the US has found that “seven states, 35 municipalities, the District of Columbia and an industry trade association are suing major oil and gas corporations for misleading the public about weather damages.” they knew their products would cause. These cases are divided into different legal categories depending on the center:

In a high-profile case in MountainA group of children is suing the state for violating their constitutional rights to a clean and healthy environment by supporting an energy policy focused on fossil fuels.

Congress began to hold hearings about the Big Oil climate hoax in November 2021 and continues to do so. Now the Senate Budget Committee is reportedly trying to contract staff members with experience in “fossil fuel influence campaign research.”

This trend is not only happening in the United States. In a previous setup win in 2021, the Netherlands It reportedly forced Shell to cut its emissions in line with the country’s climate goals. As cases like these are tried and won around the world, we are seeing momentum build and powerful legal precedents being established.

While any of these efforts may fail, it seems to me that the fossil fuel industry’s doomsday is upon us. It was time.

Wouldn’t it be great if they were forced to use their ungodly amounts of wealth to implement clean energy, transition society away from fossil fuels, electrify everything, provide reliable power to those who don’t have it, implement regional climate adaptation measures, and pay harm to those who are forced to bear the brunt of the impending weather calamities caused by the industry? And maybe, if we’re lucky, we can even prevent our government from giving the fossil fuel industry an incredible amount of taxpayer dollars in subsidies – which reportedly amounted to $11 million per minute in 2020.

Mostly, I just hope that the courts are reflecting on the seriousness of the situation and the need for swift and immediate action as they hear these cases. As the famous naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough remember us, “If the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then most of the rest of civilization will rapidly collapse. Make no mistake, climate change is the greatest security threat modern humans have ever faced.”

Andreas Carelas is the author of “Climate Courage: How Tackling Climate Change Can Build Community, Transform the Economy, and Close the Political Gap in America.” He is also the founder and CEO of RE-vol, a nonprofit climate justice organization that helps other nonprofits across the country embrace solar power. Follow him on Twitter: @AndreasKarelas

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