November 14, 2017

Statements from COP23 Press Conference on Climate Impacts, Attributing Damages to Top Fossil Fuel Producers

BONN, GERMANY (November 14, 2017)—Experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) today discussed recent extreme weather events—both in the U.S. and abroad—intensifying due to climate change, as well as what affected communities are experiencing, and how to limit harm from future disasters to people and the economy. Click here to view video of the event on demand. 

Below is a statement from Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at UCS.

“Along with other parts of the world, this year, the U.S. experienced some of the worst climate and extreme weather-related events to date. A record-breaking wildfire season in the West caused over 50 deaths, and has resulted in nearly 8.9 million acres burned and over $2.7 billion in federal firefighting costs. Hotter, drier conditions—often a fingerprint of climate change—are contributing to a longer and more severe western wildfire seasons. Similarly, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were ravaged by intense hurricanes fed by warmer waters, resulting in record-breaking floods, loss of power, damage to homes and infrastructure, and contributing to potentially hundreds of deaths. The final numbers for this year’s disasters are not yet in, but experts estimate the damage costs will likely top $300 billion.

“Scientific projections show the risks of climate-related disasters like wildfires, droughts and floods will become increasingly severe as the planet warms, and with that we can expect economic costs to also grow exponentially. This makes policies and resources to protect and prepare communities for current and future impacts of climate change all the more paramount.”

Below is a statement from Kathy Egland, chair of the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee for the NAACP National Board of Directors.

“Some communities are hit harder than others when disaster strikes. Historical disenfranchisement often leads to people of color being underprotected during extreme weather emergencies. To help these communities we need a three-pronged approach that aims to minimize damages in areas seeing recurring disasters, accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, and limit industry efforts to pawn off their harmful product on low-income communities. That’s why the NAACP is working to build an energy system that creates quality jobs to grow the economy, and ensures equal access to the benefits offered by renewables.”  

Below is a statement from Saleemul Huq, director of the ICCCAD at Independent University in Bangladesh.

“The devastation of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, are not limited to the U.S. Despite being well adapted to annual river flooding during monsoon season, one-third of Bangladesh found itself underwater earlier this year due to unyielding rain. This historic rainfall left the nation reeling leaving more than 1,000 dead, hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, and a large portion of their crops devastated. Human induced climate change requires nations around the world to redefine a ‘new normal’ as weather events become more intense and destructive.”

Additionally, UCS discussed the results of their first-of-its-kind study recently published in Climatic Change, which finds that top fossil fuel producers such as ExxonMobil and Chevron are responsible for as much as half of the global surface temperature increase and roughly 30 percent of global sea level rise. The study examined attribution during two time periods—before and after 1980, when investor-owned fossil fuel companies were aware of the threat posed by their products.

Below is a statement for Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist and director of science and policy at UCS.

“Up until this point, governments and taxpayers have shouldered the responsibility on growing climate change costs—for both damages and measures to adapt. The science now enables us to quantify how much specific companies’ products have caused the Earth to warm and seas to rise, begging the question of who should pay for their mounting costs moving forward.

“Fossil fuel companies could’ve taken any number of steps, such as investing in clean energy or carbon capture and storage, yet many chose to instead spend millions of dollars to deceive the public on climate science or block sensible limits on carbon emissions for decades. The victims of these companies’ irresponsible decisions should not have to continue to foot the bill. This new scientific data can and should help inform juries and judges, as well as governments, who may seek to have fossil fuel producers pay their fair share.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.