Accuracy in Media

A federal judge in California tossed out a series of lawsuits filed by cities in the state against oil companies to recover “damages” and infrastructure costs they said were imposed by climate change.

The case exposed that cities use one group of facts when they’re attempting to make Big Oil pay for their infrastructure needs and another when trying to convince bond markets to lend them money.

But what mainstream media reported is that the judge did not dispute the science of global warming and that we have not heard the end of this from them or their activist friends.

“A federal judge just tossed out a lawsuit brought against the world’s largest oil companies for selling fuels they knew would boost sea levels and disrupt the global climate,” wrote Mark Kaufman at Mashable, essentially accepting the plaintiffs’ case.

“The decision, on its surface, is a victory for big oil. But the fight against these huge companies and their roles in stoking climate change is far from over.”

Other “ongoing lawsuits sit in state courts,” he wrote. Alsup’s ruling “has little bearing in these separate, and more favorable, legal systems.”

The judge “agrees with the scientific findings that fossil fuel burning has spiked global temperatures and accelerated sea level rise, but when he threw out the suit, he decided that a U.S. court alone cannot solve such a weighty, global problem.”

It is correct that Alsup wrote in his opinion that no one disputes the science of climate change. That’s because neither the judge nor the defense relied on the science of climate change.

Rather, the judge’s decision seemed to hew closely to arguments laid out by 15 state attorneys general who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the energy companies that argued Oakland and San Francisco were attempting to regulate interstate commerce and international trade. The suit, the judge wrote, asks the court to “conduct and control energy policy on foreign soil.”

A number of media outlets accepted without question the reaction of John Cote, San Francisco’s city attorney. The ruling was not favorable, Cote said, but it “forced a public court proceeding on climate science.”

“We’re pleased that the court recognized that the science of global warming is no longer in dispute,” he said.

“Noting that the world has also benefited significantly from oil and other fossil fuel, [the judge] said questions about how to balance the ‘worldwide positives of the energy’ against its role in global warming ‘demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive and at least the Senate,” HuffPost wrote. “The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case.

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