Los Angeles County’s climate costs foreshadow legal showdown

By Lesley Clark | 04/03/2024 06:23 AM EDT

The county could join dozens of local governments suing the oil industry to recoup climate costs.

A person walks away from the edge of the the Los Angeles River as an atmospheric river storm inundates Los Angeles, California.

A person walks away from the edge of the the Los Angeles River as the second and more powerful of two atmospheric river storms inundates Los Angeles, bringing record rainfall and flooding, on Feb. 5. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Protecting Los Angeles County from the ravages of climate change will cost taxpayers at least $12.5 billion by the end of 2040, according to a new study that could lay the foundation for the nation’s next lawsuit by a local government against the fossil fuel industry.

The Tuesday report from the Center for Climate Integrity calculated 14 ways the county will need to address extreme heat, flooding and worsening wildfires. The study, conducted with Resilient Analytics, used conservative “least-cost” estimates under a moderate climate scenario.

That means the cost Los Angeles County will pay to respond to climate change will likely be “much higher” than the study estimated, the Center for Climate Integrity said.


The report notes that dozens of states and communities — including California and eight Golden State municipalities — have filed lawsuits seeking to recover money from the fossil fuel industry, emulating successful litigation against tobacco and opioid manufacturers.