The Thomas fire was the latest reminder to Los Angeles of the dangers of climate changeThe Thomas fire ravaged Southern California, the latest wildfire to drive home the dangers of climate change. Photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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By Karen Savage

Warning that climate change is already taking a “dire toll” on Los Angeles, city councilors in the wildfire-ravaged city have introduced a motion urging a lawsuit to hold oil and gas companies accountable.

Introduced by City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz, the motion directs the city attorney to explore options for the suit and requests an amicus brief in favor of New York’s recent lawsuit against five major oil companies for damages caused by climate change.

“Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for infrastructure repairs that likely wouldn’t have been necessary had it not been for the willful neglect of the fossil fuel industry,” Bonin and Koretz said in the motion, which was also signed by councilmen Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

If Los Angeles moves ahead with the suit, it will join the California counties of Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz and the cities of Imperial Beach, San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz in seeking compensation from oil and gas companies to pay for the impacts of climate change.

Damage from recent wildfires in California is estimated to be in the billions and mudslides on fire-scarred terrain have killed at least 18 and destroyed dozens of homes. Both kinds of those disasters, as well as more severe drought and extreme weather events, are linked to global warming.

The councilmens’ motion cites reporting by the Los Angeles Times indicating that by 2050, average temperatures in Los Angeles are expected to rise by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Angelenos will also suffer through more extreme heat, which already accounts for more deaths annually nationwide than flood, storms and lightning combined.”

Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Exxon has denounced similar suits as “politically motivated” and has fired back by alleging it is the victim of a conspiracy to deny its First Amendment rights.

The councilors point to reporting by InsideClimate News which revealed Exxon knew for decades that climate change was not only happening but that it was largely driven by fossil fuel burning.

“By knowing that their business practice was contributing to climate change and doing nothing to stop their destructive ways, the oil and gas industry should be held liable for the current and future damage climate change is causing our city,” the motion said.