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16 Jan 2018

"Smoke & Fumes" study alleges that major oil companies misled public about negative impacts of climate change despite knowledge of risks

In November 2017, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) published a report alleging that major oil companies were aware of the dangers of climate change by the 1980s, if not earlier, and that despite this knowledge and their technical capacities to potentially reduce climate risks, they failed to take appropriate measures and supported climate change denial and misinformation efforts. CIEL's study alleges that:

  • "Fossil fuel companies have been aware of the risks of climate change, and their products' role in exacerbating those risks, for at least six decades." 
  • "By no later than the 1980s and perhaps far earlier, major oil companies were incorporating climate risks in to their operational planning for major projects, and taking steps to protect their own assets from long-term climate impacts."
  • "From as early as the 1950s, the petroleum industry was researching and patenting technology..which might have been deployed to reduce emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change"
  • "Yet throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and despite company documents supporting the scientific consensus on climate change, the petroleum industry engaged in a massive public relations campaign against public understanding of climate science."

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the following companies and industry associations named in the study to respond:

  • Alpha Natural Resources - declined to respond
  • American Petroleum Institute - did not respond
  • Arch Coal - did not respond
  • BP - response provided below
  • Chevron - did not respond
  • Citgo - declined to respond
  • ExxonMobil - response provided below
  • Gulf Oil - did not respond
  • Peabody Energy - response provided below
  • Shell - response provided below
  • Western States Petroleum Association - response provided below

Company Responses

Western States Petroleum Association View Response
Shell plc View Response
ExxonMobil View Response
Citgo Petroleum (part of PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela))

No Response

Peabody Energy View Response
Alpha Natural Resources

No Response

Arch Coal

No Response


No Response

American Petroleum Institute

No Response

Gulf Oil LP

No Response