Why New Jersey’s climate lawsuits are losing move for state’s labor workforce

While climate change is a serious challenge that should command the attention of leaders at all levels, filing lawsuits against energy producers is simply unhelpful. Worse yet, the kind of lawsuits being pursued in our state are risking my job and endangering industry that supports New Jersey families.

Instead of setting off on a chase to recover alleged climate change-related damages, officials should think twice before negatively affecting the livelihoods of New Jersey’s energy workers.

It’s seemingly impossible to show that one company’s production of fossil fuels caused a consequence in one specific area such as Hoboken. And, it seems as if climate change lawsuits are suing the wrong people anyway. More importantly, in doing so, they are risking my job — and New Jersey industries in general — to pay out-of-state trial lawyers, who may care more about dollars in their pockets than fighting climate change.

These climate change lawsuits are riddled with problems. For starters, they seek damages not just over unfounded claims that some energy producers concealed the “harms” of their products, but that fossil fuels were produced at all.

In other words, Hoboken and the state are suing American companies for producing the type of good that every single person in the country uses daily when they pick up a comb, a toothbrush, their glasses or a laptop.

Shamefully, while these lawsuits both admit that climate change is a global phenomenon, they largely only target American companies. Why do nations like China, which continues to disregard its responsibility to the world, get a free pass?

In fact, China has plans to double down on coal, accelerating new coal mines and fast-tracking construction. A report from Bloomberg said China could actually be adding more new coal capacity than the rest of the world combined.

It’s illogical that some officials in New Jersey attempt to knuckle down on one American industry while other countries are dead set on producing more greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

That was proven by a U.N. report in November on 20 major fossil fuel producing countries that found most plan to more than double their extraction of coal, oil and gas by 2030. The U.S. is not one of them, but India, China and Indonesia are.

The charade being played by these out-of-state lawyers, with the help of our attorney general and local leaders in Hoboken, isn’t amusing. They signal that New Jersey is not friendly to business and could hurt the workers I know at New Jersey UA Steamfitters Local 475 and elsewhere. That’s because our trades — heating, ventilation, air condition and refrigeration, metal, pipefitters, plumbers, steamfitters and welders — are all industry jobs that rely heavily on businesses moving into our community.

Our efforts at UA Local 475 are focused on protecting the rights of workers and unions and creating good jobs for working families. Climate litigation inherently goes against what we believe in and support. Plus, lawsuits today are targeting the energy industry, but could easily pivot to go after other New Jersey industries tomorrow.

It’s truly ridiculous that climate lawsuits in New Jersey are not only taking us down the wrong path, but ignore foreign energy producers.

Instead of focusing on lawsuits that won’t do anything to move the needle on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, we should be investing in innovation and devoting resources to research, including the kind being done by the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, which will create the next generation of environmentally responsible industrial jobs. That’s the best way forward, not punishing companies that make products we all use.

It’s time for New Jersey leaders at all levels to commit to realistic climate solutions and acknowledge that lawsuits against energy companies are nothing more than money-grabbing and political headline-grabbing ploys.

We should all send the clear message that endangering the jobs of hard-working people through unfounded climate lawsuits is a losing move for New Jersey.

Shaun Sullivan is the business manager for UA Steamfitters Local 475.