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For years Congress has refused to impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and now the Trump administration is rolling back the Obama regulations.
What are politically-ambitious blue-state politicians to do? The obvious answer: File a lawsuit, claiming that Big Oil has known for decades that increasing GHG concentrations would cause a climate crisis for which it is responsible, yielding massive infrastructure damage now and prospectively, for which it is liable.
Put aside as well the deeply dubious nature of the public nuisance argument.
Focus instead on the blinding contrast between the accusations made in the lawsuits and the disclosures offered in the various governments’ bond offerings. Herewith, a sampling of those differences from California:
City of Oakland lawsuit: (1) Defendants’ “massive fossil fuel production … causes a gravely dangerous rate of global warming” and “cause[s] ongoing and increasingly severe sea level rise harms to Oakland …” (2) “(B)y 2050, a ‘100-year flood’ in the Oakland vicinity is expected to occur … once every 2.3 years … and by 2100 … once per week.” (3) Oakland is projected to have up to “66 inches of sea level rise by 2100,” which, along with flooding, will imminently threaten Oakland’s sewer system and threaten property with a “total replacement cost of between $22 and $38 billion.”
City of Oakland bond disclosure: “The City is unable to predict when seismic events, fires or other natural events, such as sea rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding from a major storm, could occur, when they may occur, and, if any such events occur, whether they will have a material adverse effect on the business operations or financial condition of the City or the local economy.”
San Mateo County lawsuit: (1) The County is “particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and changes in salinity, temperature, and runoff …” The County will experience “a higher rate of sea rise … than the global mean.” (2) The County predicts “extreme sea level rise events equivalent to a 1% annual-chance flood of 42-inches” which will “inundate thousands of acres of County land, breach flood protection infrastructure and swamp San Francisco International Airport … .” (3) Along with current weather and climate changes, the “County is at an increased risk of suffering extreme injuries in the future,” such as a “93% chance that the County experiences a devastating three-foot flood before the year 2050, and a 50% chance that such a flood occurs before 2030.”
San Mateo County bond disclosure: “The County is unable to predict whether sea-level rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding from a major storm will occur, when they may occur, and if any such events occur, whether they will have a material adverse effect on the business operations or financial condition of the County and the local economy.”
City of San Francisco lawsuit: (1) “Global warming-induced sea level rise is already causing flooding of low-lying areas of San Francisco, increased shoreline erosion, and salt water impacts to San Francisco’s water treatment system. The rapidly rising sea level along the Pacific coast and in San Francisco Bay, moreover, poses an imminent threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding because any storm would be superimposed on a higher sea level.” (2) The threat of sea-level rise “is becoming more dire every day as global warming reaches ever more dangerous levels and sea level rise accelerates.” “Nearer-term risks include 0.3 to as much as 0.8 feet of additional sea level rise by 2030 … .” (3) “San Francisco is planning to fortify its Seawall to protect itself from sea level rise … . Short-term sea wall upgrades are expected to cost more than $500 million. Long-term upgrades … (are expected to) cost $5 billion.”
City of San Francisco bond disclosure: “The City is unable to predict whether sea-level rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding from a major storm will occur, when they may occur, and if any such events occur, whether they will have a material adverse effect on the business operations or financial condition of the City and the local economy.”
City of Imperial Beach lawsuit: (1) The City has and will experience “additional, significant, and dangerous sea level rise” due to “unabated” GHG emissions. (2) “Economic vulnerability associated with erosion’s impact on real property is valued at over $106 million. Coastal flooding will impact 1,538 parcels, and cause over $38 million in damages, primarily to residential and commercial buildings.”
City of Imperial Beach bond disclosure: ” … earthquake … , flood, fire, or other natural disaster, could cause a reduction in the Tax Revenues securing the Bonds.”
County and City of Santa Cruz lawsuit: (1) Santa Cruz’ “hydrologic regime is shifting toward … more frequent and severe drought, more extreme precipitation events, more frequent and severe heat waves, and more frequent and severe wildfires.” (2) “(T)here is a 98% chance that the County experiences a devastating three-foot flood before the year 2050, and a 22% chance that such a flood occurs before 2030 … . With 0.3 feet of sea level rise, anticipated by 2030, the County will endure extensive coastal flooding …” affecting private residences, roads and highways, the sewer system, and emergency services buildings, among other facilities. (3) The “increased flooding and severe storm events associated with climate change will result in significant structural and financial losses in the City’s low-lying downtown.”
County and City of Santa Cruz bond disclosure: (1) Portions of the county “are located in a 100-year flood plain” and there is “high or extreme danger of wildfires” without tying this to climate change. (2) County property values “can be adversely affected by a variety of … factors includ(ing) … Earth movements, landslides and floods and climatic conditions such as wildfires, droughts and tornadoes” and some areas within the County “may be subject to unpredictable climatic conditions, such as flood, droughts and destructive storms.” (3) “From time to time, the City is subject to natural calamities, including, but not limited to, earthquake, flood, tsunami, or wildfire … which could have a negative impact on City finances.”
Marin County lawsuit: (1) “Marin County anticipates a 1% annual-chance flood of at least three feet to occur in any given year. Such an event, even with the minimum anticipated sea level rise, would inundate thousands of additional acres of County land.” (2) “(T)here is a 99% risk that the County experiences a devastating three-foot flood before the year 2050, and a 47% chance that such a flood occurs before 2030.
Marin County bond disclosure: Warns of “the complete or partial destruction of taxable property caused by natural or man-made disaster(s), such as earthquake, flood, fire, terrorist activities, (and) toxic dumping … .”
So there we have it. Lawsuit claims are easy; bond disclosures are subject to SEC sanction, and overly dire disclosures would reduce the prices (increase the interest rates) for the bond offerings. Which should anyone believe?
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