New York City suffered another setback in its effort to make Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc and other energy companies help cover the public costs of dealing with climate change, as a federal appeals court ruled the global problem demands political rather than legal action.

The ruling Thursday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan is a warning sign for those trying to use the courts to hold the industry responsible for a problem that could cost taxpayers trillions of dollars in coming years. Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and ConocoPhillips were also sued in the case.

The court said global warming “is a uniquely international concern” that requires the federal government to step in rather than judges. Only the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate domestic greenhouse gas emissions, the unanimous three-judge panel held.

New York City “sidestepped” federal procedure with a state-law tort suit against the energy companies even though their commercial activity of selling fossil fuel products around the world is “admittedly legal,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Sullivan wrote for the court.

-Al Jazeera