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Survivors of Climate Disasters Share Stories and Call for Fossil-Fuel Polluters to be Held Accountable

Survivors of Climate Disasters Share Stories and Call for Fossil-Fuel Polluters to be Held Accountable

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Survivors of numerous disasters driven by climate change yesterday called for fossil fuel companies to be held legally accountable for their crimes, inflicting massive damage on public health and the climate as well as lying to the public for decades about their culpability. 

At a press conference organized by Public Citizen, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Extreme Weather Survivors, survivors of hurricanes, floods, extreme heat, fires, tornadoes, and other hazards called for prosecutors and state legislatures to use all available tools available to make polluters pay. In addition, experts spoke about how this legal accountability can be achieved through civil and criminal liability, as well as state climate superfund laws – the first of which just became law in the state of Vermont.


Climate survivors and allies said: 
“I’m a single mom of three who used all my savings to realize my dream of opening my clothing store and flower shop. The floods took everything. Rebuilding is a long road: everyone thinks the floodwaters recede and that’s it, you’re done. That couldn’t be further from the truth. But we have to keep going! I like to joke that I pay my bills with optimism. “Can I pay that in three installments” is basically my most asked question these days. The hardest is watching what it’s like for my kids. They are retraumatized every time there’s a flood warning. In fact, the whole community feels that way. And sometimes I have to make choices no parent should have to make – last month, I chose between groceries and sending my son to hockey camp. I just couldn’t tell him no. So I was hungry, but I’m still here. Meanwhile the rich oil execs get to keep making piles of money. It’s wrong. They’ve got to be held accountable and help rebuild the communities that have been impacted.”. — Jenny Sebold, survivor of the Great Vermont Flood of 2023, Montpelier, VT

“Climate-induced disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, caused by fossil fuel companies’ pollution and negligence cannot go unnoticed any longer. It’s unfair for myself, a single mom of six, and others in my community to continuously have to fight for clean air and clean water, care for sick children who are being poisoned by industry, and mourn the loss of loved ones dying from cancer daily all while these industries continue to pollute. As if that’s not enough we are also the ones most impacted by the disasters having to constantly evacuate and rebuild. We are tired of being resilient. It is high time we hold these companies accountable for their actions and demand that they pay for the climate crimes they have committed. We must make polluters pay for the damage they have caused to our environment and communities. They’ve caused this mess and they need to pay to mitigate it.” — Roishetta Ozane, founder, director, and chief executive officer of the Vessel Project of Louisiana and a survivor of hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, and pollution on the U.S. Gulf Coast

“I’ve lived in Arizona forever and it’s always been hot but not like this. That’s what scares me most. It just keeps getting more and more severe, unlivable really. If you leave your car in the heat even for 10 mins, you can burn your hands on the steering wheel, and you definitely can’t wear shorts in the summer – the seat will burn you and the seat belt buckle will sizzle your skin. When we go grocery shopping we have to buy ice and keep a Cooler in the back of the car so the food won’t spoil. We always have to have ice water because If car gets a flat tire, it’s not safe. We could die.” — Deborah Parker, survivor of extreme heat in Tucson, AZ

“Five years ago I got sick with a viral illness – now I have asthma and diabetes so it is very very hard to be outside in the heat, which just keeps getting worse! I’m a teenager finishing high school and working at Target. We’re stuck in the house a lot, and we have to wait until dark to go out. But last summer, when it was over 110, we couldn’t even leave at night because the heat just didn’t let up. I’m scared of going to my doctor’s appointments or my job, especially in the afternoons. If we get stuck on the road at 4 PM, we can’t risk walking from the car to the building in the heat, because I could have heart issues and if I pass out, I would immediately be burned from the hot surface of the ground. I could die.” — Patrice Parker, survivor of extreme heat in Tucson, AZ

“The 2018 Camp Fire, which devastated Paradise and nearby communities, was ignited by PG&E’s corporate negligence. They admitted this when they pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter. But what about the fossil fuel industry’s role? Had we experienced normal rainfall on November 8th, had it not been so unusually dry, hot, and windy, this murderous disaster could have been avoided. The industry continues to ignore the catastrophic consequences of burning fossil fuels, which heats our atmosphere and increases the scale and frequency of disasters. It’s time the fossil fuel industry is held accountable.” — Allen Myers, former resident of Paradise California and board member at Regenerating Paradise

“The disasters that have endangered Patrice, Jenny, Allen, Roishetta, and countless Americans like them are the foreseeable — and foreseen — consequences of reckless conduct by a small number of major fossil fuel companies that generated a substantial portion of all global greenhouse gas emissions and deceived the public so they could continue to heat up the planet. The victims and survivors of this misconduct deserve justice and accountability. Fortunately, we have mechanisms to give it to them, through polluters pay climate funds, civil litigation, and criminal prosecution.” — Aaron Regunberg, senior policy counsel with Public Citizen’s Climate Program


For further inquiries regarding legal accountability mechanisms for the fossil fuel industry, please contact these expert resources.

  • Civil lawsuits against fossil fuel companies:
    Mike Meno, communications director, Center for Climate Integrity:
  • Criminal liability questions:
    Aaron Regunberg, senior policy counsel for climate, Public Citizen:

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Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. Founded in 2002, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC. and beyond.