The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Cassidy DiPaola,, 401-441-7196

As Idalia Threatens Florida, It's Time to Hold Big Oil Accountable for Climate Disasters

As Hurricane Idalia bears down on Florida, climate activists, scientists, public officials and lawyers are increasingly focused on the need to hold Big Oil accountable for climate disasters.

“As we Floridians face the devastation of yet another massive hurricane, we know exactly who is responsible for making these countless disasters exponentially worse: the Big Oil CEOs profiting off the climate crisis and their political allies,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Executive Director of the CLEO Institute in Florida. “Big Oil CEOs and politicians like Ron Desantis must be held accountable for knowingly fuelling the climate crisis that heats our oceans and strengthens deadly storms — then leading the fight to strip away resources our state could use to respond. Holding Big Oil, and their enabling politicians, accountable for these disasters is one of the clearest ways to build climate resilience and ensure their greed doesn’t continue to put Florida families’ lives on the line.”

“It’s hard to see the people and places I love suffering after yet another climate disaster. But the truth is, Florida is standing out as an example of what a world ruled by fossil fuel executives and the politicians they employ looks like” said John Paul Mejia, a Miami native and National Spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement. “By turning down millions of dollars in climate investments while people suffer, Governor DeSantis has shown he’s more willing to shield Big Oil Executives from accountability than serve the people of Florida. My generation won’t forget this and we will do anything in our power to defeat politicians like him.”

The threats posed this week to Florida by Hurricane Idalia are just the latest in a string of extreme weather and disasters exacerbated by the climate crisis this summer. July was the hottest month on record, within the hottest year on record – a year that has been marked by deadly and tragic disasters ranging from the devastating wildfires in Maui, a searing heat wave across much of Europe and United States, and record flooding in Italy, Cuba, Brazil, India and beyond.

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry has continued to drive up prices and rake in massive profits, all while walking back their own climate commitments. Just this week, ExxonMobil announced that it predicted the world would fail to meet its 2050 climate targets, while taking no responsibility for its own role in the failure.

In response, a growing global movement of climate activists, scientists, politicians, and lawyers is working to finally hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate damages. 2023 has already been a “watershed year” for climate lawsuits, with courts in Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico, the United States, and beyond hearing cases and issuing judgements that hold the industry accountable for pollution, human rights abuses, and climate damages.

“It’s time to hold Big Oil accountable for the climate disasters they’re fueling,” said Jamie Henn of Fossil Free Media, which recently purchased billboards in the hottest cities in America blaming the heat waves on Big Oil. “Big Oil executives are sitting in cushy corner offices making massive profits while people in Florida, Hawaii and all over the world are losing their homes, businesses, and lives. Finally holding this industry accountable for the damage they’re causing has become a major priority for the global climate movement.”

In the United States, more than two dozen cities and states are suing Big Oil for climate damages or lying to the public about the risks associated with their product. In April, the Supreme Court ruled that these cases could move forward in state court, a major defeat for oil companies who were hoping to dismiss the lawsuits at the federal level. Along with suing fossil fuel companies, young people have also brought cases against the federal government and states, including in Montana, where youth won a “game changer” lawsuit to force the state to account for climate impacts when considering new fossil fuel development.

“This lawsuit is about accountability,” said former Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino at a 2019 press conference announcing the county’s intention to sue the industry. “Fossil fuel companies knew — their own experts warned them — about the potentially ‘severe’ or ‘catastrophic’ effects of doing business as usual, and the damage that could be caused by producing, marketing and selling their products.”

Experts predict that the number of climate liability lawsuits will only increase as more communities are faced with devastating climate disasters and the resulting clean up and recovery costs.

Fossil Free Media is a nonprofit media lab that supports the movement to end fossil fuels and address the climate emergency.