The major oil companies knew as early as 1950 that their products were killing us. They hid their knowledge and continued with business as usual.
The fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - were formed from carbon-based organisms that died millions of years ago. As fuel, they supply around 80% of the world’s energy.
Emissions from burning fossil fuels are the most important cause of global warming. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) affirms that existing and currently planned fossil fuel projects are already more than the climate can handle.
The fossil fuel industry, exemplified by Exxon Mobil, has known since the 1970s that the fossil fuels they unearth are bringing disaster to our climate.
"ExxonMobil was aware of contemporary climate science, contributed to that science, and predicted future global warming correctly," a recent study concludes.
Internal company memos showed that Exxon oil company already knew in the 1970s that its fossil fuel products could lead to global warming with dramatic environmental effects. Documents showed that the US oil and gas industry’s largest trade association had known since at least the 1950s, as had the coal industry since at least the 1960s, and electric utilities, Total oil company, and GM and Ford motor companies since at least the 1970s.
They tried to deny it
Members of the fossil fuel industry have tried to cast doubt on the link between fossil fuels and climate warming. They insisted that the science was vague, the climate models inaccurate, that climate change was due to sunspots, and in fact we were headed for global cooling - all absurd claims.
UN secretary general António Guterres was clear:
“Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival. This insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific fact.”
Climate change kills
Some 11,000 extreme weather disasters worldwide between 2000 and 2019 caused roughly 475,000 deaths.
Climate refugees fleeing destruction by storms, floods and droughts, can trigger international tensions and conflicts.
They will be judged
Calls for fossil fuel industry accountability are growing.
We are starting to see a number of lawsuits, investigations, and civil society campaigns seeking to hold ExxonMobil Corp and other companies accountable for misleading shareholders, customers, and the public about climate science. The US states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York State, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia are suing the fossil fuel industry.
- Julie Wornan