San Francisco’s Climate Lawsuit Relies On Unlikely Predictions Of Sea Level Rise

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

California cities’ lawsuits against five major oil companies claims global warming risks catastrophic sea-level rise by the end of the century, based on an outlandish scenario unlikely to happen.

San Francisco filed suit against five oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, over damages man-made global warming allegedly caused. Their suit claims billions of dollars worth of destruction will come from future sea-level rise.

The suits, trial lawyers are handling, cites at least nine times a report, “Rising Seas California,” predicts sea-level rise around San Francisco could reach 10 feet by 2100 under a warming scenario well beyond the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s own “worst case.”

“Rapid ice sheet loss on Antarctica due to global warming risks a sea level rise in California of ten feet by 2100,” San Francisco’s complaint states. “That would be catastrophic for San Francisco.”

was put together by the California Ocean Science Trust, a non-profit created by the state legislature, assembled  “Rising Seas California.” Now it’s being used to sue oil companies over global warming.

San Francisco is one of nine cities demanding energy companies pay billions in damages allegedly linked to man-made warming. Three plaintiffs firms are handling the suits and working for a cut of the winnings — potentially in the billions.

However, two Australian researchers’ recent study called into question the validity of sea-level-rise estimates cited in San Francisco’s bid to extract winnings from oil companies. Oakland’s lawsuit also cites the “Rising Seas” study. The Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro firm is handling both cities’ suits.

The California study’s sea level rise scenarios “are founded on pure speculation, constructed on unproven assumptions, and do not provide a suitable basis for use in planning or policy making,” researchers Albert Parker and Clifford Ollier found.

Parker and Ollier also called into question the IPCC’s sea level rise estimates. The IPCC’s extreme scenarios “have been the inspiration of hundreds of papers by local panels proposing ever-increasing alarming messages,” they wrote.

Such studies, including the California one, are “purely theoretical studies based on sea level-predictions by non-validated models,” the Aussie researchers noted. Their study concluded empirical observations suggested sea-level rise between four and eight inches by 2100.

It shouldn’t be surprising researchers are calling into question California’s so-called “H++” scenario, given the IPCC’s RCP 8.5 scenario was labeled as “exceptionally unlikely.”

Two University of British Columbia scientists published a December 2017 study that found RCP 8.5, a policy scenario, modeled a future where global coal consumption hits unrealistic levels.

This “indicates RCP 8.5 and other ‘business-as-usual scenarios’ consistent with high CO2 forcing from vast future coal combustion are exceptionally unlikely,” the study found.

Potential sea level rise for San Francisco is about twice the level RCP 8.5 predicts by 2100, California’s study shows. However, even California’s report admits the probability of “H++” is “unknown.”

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