New York City is taking to court the globe’s five largest oil companies, holding them responsible for current and impending damages to the city as a result of alleged oil-driven climate change.

The lawsuit filed this week against Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP claims the giants collectively produced 11% of all of global-warming related gases through products they sold over the years. NYC also accuses the companies and the whole petroleum industry of knowingly ignoring the environmental consequences and covering up the truth.

“In this litigation, the City seeks to shift the costs of protecting the City from climate change impacts back onto the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat,” reads the lawsuit.

Is the New York City government’s legal action merely a political stunt, or is this the beginning of a Big Tobacco type trend of ongoing litigation?

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