Many people still foolishly blame things like lightning strikes, tornadoes, tsunamis and hurricanes on the random vagaries of fate or simply describe them as acts of God. But not the intrepid Mayor of New York City, who apparently also doubles as a sleuth in his spare time. He’s been investigating the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy for half a decade now, seeking out the cause of the storm. And now he’s cracked the case, determining that the lethal storm which wrecked large parts of the northeast was caused by a coalition of five energy companies. And by God, he’s suing them over it.
Not being happy with that form of retribution, Bill de Blasio is going one step further. He’s going to move immediately* to divest the city’s massive pension funds from any investments in the fossil fuel industry, depriving them of cash. (Politico)
(* By “immediately” I mean “not at all immediately,” which we’ll get to presently.)
Mayor Bill de Blasio will sue the country’s five biggest oil companies alleging climate change and global warming led to Hurricane Sandy and its catastrophic fallout and the companies should pay for the city’s resiliency upgrades.
The de Blasio administration will announce Wednesday that the city will sue for reparations and force the companies to pay for the city’s resiliency efforts, which have taken years to complete since 2012, when the storm devastated the city, killing 53 people across the state costing more than $19 billion.
The mayor will also call on several of the city’s pension funds to divest from oil companies, two sources with knowledge of the announcement confirmed to POLITICO.
So the mayor thinks he can go to court and prove that not only is global warming in general responsible for changes in climate, but that the activities of these five specific companies were directly and primarily linked to that specific storm and they should be held accountable. That’s going to make for some interesting opening arguments in court, particularly since Sandy was one of the rare exceptions in a record-setting nine year stretch when no major hurricanes made landfall in the United States.
Further, if he’s blaming global warming for the intensity of hurricanes (which we can certainly discuss) then the oil companies scored a massive fail. Sandy never made it above Category 2 the entire time it was tracked (“Major” hurricanes start at category 3) and when it came ashore in New York and New Jersey it had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. That’s the absolute bottom end of a category 1 storm, and if it had dropped six miles per hour further in the final hour it would have come ashore as a tropical storm.
What made Sandy one of the most costly and dangerous hurricanes seen in the northeast in modern times wasn’t that it was a particularly large or powerful storm. It was a question of where it struck, as well as when. That region is woefully unprepared for any major storm surge, mostly because big storms this far north are so rare. It was so expensive and deadly because it flooded one of the most densely populated areas in the country where you find some of the most expensive real estate. Hurricane Sandy was a tragedy, but it wasn’t a particularly large storm at all. It just took an unusual but not totally unknown route. (In 1938, long before we were creating so many greenhouse gasses and in fact were still worried about global cooling, a category 5 struck the same area and basically leveled everything, killing somewhere between 600 to 800 people.)
But wait, you might say. Bill de Blasio also mentioned higher sea levels due to global warming! Yep. He sure did. But the most alarming statistics show that global sea levels have risen 2.6″ over the past thirty years. That’s two and a half inches. The storm surge from Sandy was six feet. And it hit during high tide under a full moon which made the high tide 20% higher than average. If global cooling had made sea levels drop an entire foot rather than going up two inches and that same storm hit, New York and New Jersey would still have been just as flooded.
In short… just how dumb is this lawsuit? Would any lawyer really take it on? (Sorry. That’s a silly question. If you got enough money to cover their fees you can find a lawyer to take almost any case.)
As for the pension divestment situation, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that. New York State (as opposed to the city) tried the same thing under the urging of Governor Cuomo (who would also like to impress liberals around the country so he can run for President) and it was soundly rejected by his comptroller. The same is likely to happen for the city unless the people running the pension fund are looking to commit financial suicide. For more on why that’s a foolish, politically motivated stunt, you can read this response from Linda Kelly, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). For additional information on how fossil fuel divestment could kill New York City’s pension funds, check out this report from Divestment Facts.
The bottom line is that this is all a political stunt by a Democrat desperately trying to draw national attention to himself so he can run for President. And the worst part is that it’s a particularly stupid stunt. No court in the land would touch this case with a ten foot pole unless they can find a particularly “woke” venue, after which it would be overturned by saner heads.