A paper published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” reveals decades of corporate misinformation campaigns by the fossil fuel industry. The paper focuses on seven deception dossiers, or collections containing nearly 85 internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The authors say that many call climate change a hoax, including U.S. Senator James Inhofe who is now chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. However, write the authors, the biggest climate hoax is continuing today and that is, “…the decades long campaign by a handful of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy – to deceive the American public by distorting the realities and risks of climate change, something acting directly and sometimes acting indirectly through trade associations and front groups.”
The authors continue that that deception dossiers tell an undeniable truth, “…that for nearly three decades, major fossil fuel companies have knowingly worked to distort climate science findings, deceive the public, and block policies designed to hasten our needed transition to a clean energy economy.”
So what do we learn?
- Fossil Fuel companies have intentionally spread climate disinformation for decades.
- Fossil fuel company leaders knew that their products were harmful to people and the planet but still chose to actively deceive the public and deny this harm.
- The campaign of deception continues today.
The authors write that while many fossil fuel companies acknowledge the main findings of climate science, some still continue to support groups that spread misinformation about climate science and policy. Some of these front groups include: Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. The authors say these groups, along with industry trade associations such as American Petroleum Institute (API), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). The fossil fuel industry also uses a host of fake grassroots organizations such as Fed Up at the Pump and Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy to fight against legislation such as the Clean Power Plan and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
The fossil fuel industry must be held accountable for their actions and responsible for the harm they have done calls the authors – especially those who publicly support renewable energy yet fund anti-climate science campaigns and groups behind the scenes. The public must get involved in these efforts and call on the industry to stop disseminating misinformation about climate change at the very least, the authors stress. The also call on the fossil fuel companies to:
- Support fair and cost-effective policies to reduce global warning emissions.
- Reduce emissions from current operations and update their business models to prepare for future global limits on emissions.
- Pay for their share of the costs of climate damages and preparedness.
- Fully disclose the financial and physical risks of climate change to their business operations.
The authors conclude, “A global call to action – including efforts as share-holder engagement, divestment campaigns, consumer pressure, and litigation – may be needed to bring about this transformation.”