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Chevron is suing another oil company for causing climate change.


Last year, Oakland sued the American oil company and four others for billions of dollars, to pay for sea walls and other measures to protect the city from the impacts of global warming. Chevron says it hasn’t caused climate change and shouldn’t have to pay—but just in case the court disagrees, then they want Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil company, to have to pay up, too. That’s the gist of a third-party lawsuit Chevron recently filed in California court:

While Chevron agrees that the Plaintiffs’ claims are meritless ... Statoil (an agency or instrumentality of Norway)—as well as potentially the many other sovereign governments that use and promote fossil fuels—must be joined as third-party defendants in this matter.  

Chevron’s complaint argues that the company “primarily is a producer of fossil fuels, not a user or burner of such fuels. Greenhouse gases generally are not released from fossil fuels until the fuels are burned or otherwise consumed.” Then it points the finger at Statoil, which, “like Chevron and each of the other Defendants in these actions, has engaged, and continues to engage, directly and through its agents in the United States, in the production and promotion of ‘massive quantities of fossil fuels.’” 

According to a peer-reviewed study published last year in the journal Climatic Change, Chevron is only one of 90 carbon producers that have cumulatively caused up to 50 percent of the increase in global mean surface temperature since 1880, and up to 32 percent of global sea level rise. Chevron is a huge part of that—according to the study, “From 1880 to 2010, emissions traced to the two largest investor-owned (Chevron and ExxonMobil) plus the two largest state-owned (Saudi Aramco and Gazprom) contributed nearly 10 percent to the historical rise in global mean surface temperature.” But other companies, like Statoil, are mentioned as large contributors, too.

Chevron realizes that a reckoning may be coming, and it’s trying to soften the blow.