Local governments in B.C. have to bring climate change into their long-term planning, but suing fossil-fuel companies to recover costs would be a waste of time and money.
On the lower Island, rising sea levels are just one of the effects of climate change that will transform the lives of residents and heap new burdens on municipal governments.
A Capital Regional District report said that storm surges combined with a one-metre rise in sea level could result in business disruption losses of $415,557 per day, by the year 2100.
Victoria and other municipalities have already sent letters to big oil and gas companies asking them for compensation.
Shell Canada president Michael Crothers wrote back that his company recognizes the challenge of climate change and is working hard on new energy technologies. It was a gentle way of saying: “No dice.”
If cities and towns do go ahead with lawsuits, those sympathetic words will be replaced by an army of expensive lawyers.
B.C. has been fighting Big Tobacco for 20 years for compensation for the health costs of smoking. Despite having a strong moral case, the province is lost so deep in the courts that there is not even a glimmer of light at the end the tunnel.
Fighting Big Oil would be many times harder, not only because of its immense resources but because just about everyone in the world is complicit in the use of fossil fuels.
Assessing responsibility would be a moral and legal nightmare.
Some battles are worth fighting, no matter how difficult. This one isn’t.