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

CIEL Smoke & Fume Report 2017

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
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Company non-response
15 January 2018

Alpha Natural Resources declined to respond

Company non-response
15 January 2018

American Petroleum Institute did not respond

Company non-response
15 January 2018

Arch Coal did not respond

 

Company response
15 January 2018

BP response

Author: BP

BP’s position on climate change is long-standing and well-known: we believe that meeting the climate challenge will require efforts by all governments, companies and consumers.

We recognize the importance of the climate challenge and we intend to play our part in addressing it. We are calling for a price on carbon, increasing gas in our upstream portfolio, investing in renewables and low carbon innovation, and pursuing energy efficiency.

We are also collaborating with others to help address this global challenge. As one example, we participate in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative - currently chaired by our group chief executive Bob Dudley which brings together 10 oil and gas companies. The initiative’s current focus areas are minimizing methane emissions and accelerating the deployment of carbon capture, use and storage.

More detail on our position and our activities to play our part can be found in our most recent Sustainability Report. The Report is available on bp.com

Download the full document here

Company non-response
15 January 2018

Chevron did not respond

Company non-response
15 January 2018

Citgo declined to respond

Author: Citgo

Company non-response
15 January 2018

Gulf Oil did not respond

Author: Gulf Oil

Company response
15 January 2018

Peabody Energy response

Author: Peabody Energy

Peabody believes that coal is a key contributor to affordable, reliable energy and fossil fuels will continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix. The company also recognizes that these fuels contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and concern regarding these emissions has become part of the global political, societal and regulatory landscape in which we operate. Our approach to using the world’s coal resources is grounded in the need to achieve the three- part goals of energy security, economic progress and environmental solutions through the application of advanced technologies.

As outlined in our position statement on energy and climate, Peabody will continue to work to reduce our carbon footprint and promote the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies. More information is available in our Corporate and Social Responsibility Report  at PeabodyEnergy.com

Download the full document here

Company response
9 January 2018

Western States Petroleum Association response

Author: Western States Petroleum Association

Stating that WSPA opposes climate change reduction efforts in the state of California is categorically untrue.

In 2017, when California policymakers authorized the state’s post-2020 cap-and-trade program in order to meet the world’s most stringent 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goal, all knew that achieving this target would be difficult, technologically challenging, and would require bipartisan leadership. But this updated cap-and-trade program presented the best available path forward for our industry in the toughest regulatory environment in the world. In fact, without a market-based approach like cap-and-trade in place, studies show that meeting 2030 GHG goals could have been at least four times more expensive for every California family and cost the state significantly more in jobs than control measures, which would have been imposed on manufacturing and industry in this state.

Download the full document here

Company response
8 January 2018

Shell response

Author: Shell

“Our position on climate change is well known; recognizing the climate challenge and the role energy has in enabling a decent quality of life. Shell continues to call for effective policy to support lower carbon business and consumer choices and opportunities such as government lead carbon pricing/trading schemes. Today, Shell generally applies a $40 per tonne of CO2 internal project screening value to project decision-making and has developed leadership positions in natural gas and sugarcane ethanol..

[In] November 2017, Shell announced its ambition to cut the net carbon footprint of its energy products ...by around half by 2050. As an interim step, by 2035 we aim to reduce it by around 20%.

We will do this in step with society’s drive to align with the Paris goals, and we will do it by taking into account the net carbon footprint of the full range of Shell emissions, from our operations and from the consumption of our products.

Tackling climate change is a cross-generational, global and multi-faceted effort. This is a challenge for the whole planet, for all of society, for customers, for governments and indeed for businesses...We are committed to play our part.”

Download the full document here