Flooding has become a regular part of life for many downtown residents | File photo

The city of Charleston announced a lawsuit Wednesday against 24 fossil fuel companies for the costs of adapting to climate change.

The lawsuit alleges that these companies have profited from the extraction and use of fossil fuels for “nearly half a century,” despite decades of scientific research warning of fossil fuel’s harmful impact on nature and climate change.

“As this lawsuit shows, these companies have known for more than 50 years that their products were going to cause the worst flooding the world has seen since Noah built the Ark,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a press release. “And instead of warning us, they covered up the truth and turned our flooding problems into their profits.”

Charleston is the 21st American city to sue the companies, and the first in the South. The lawsuit did not specify the monetary damages the city is seeking, but it hopes to recoup the cost of damages from flooding, which Tecklenburg estimated to be $2 billion. The mayor said at a press conference Wednesday that the funds from the lawsuit could expedite flooding mitigation projects.

The lawsuit brings charges against Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Speedway and others. Defendants, according to the lawsuit, have “unlawfully done damage to the city.” The companies are being charged with causing a public nuisance and private nuisance, liability and negligent failure to warn the public, trespassing and violating the state Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Scientists at NASA and elsewhere agree burning fossil fuels has caused a dramatic increase in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, directly linked to increasing temperatures. Those changes have come along with increases of nuisance flooding in low-lying cities like Charleston and an increasing frequency of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

According the U.S. Global Change Research Program, warmer waters and atmospheric temperatures will put low-income, marginalized communities and indigenous people in increased danger.

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