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Climate Disinformation

Updated: May 30, 2022

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Misleading information on global warming can usually be traced directly to special interests.

The energy business is one of the largest industries in the world. Major fossil fuel companies routinely make billion-dollar profits, extracting and distributing oil, gas, and coal.

Unfortunately, fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when burnt—and CO2 is the main driver of climate change.

Instead of acknowledging the harmful effects of their products and committing to swift and deep reductions in global warming emissions, many of the world's largest fossil fuel companies have knowingly deceived the public about the climate science and policy—and they continue to do so today.


More than 50 years ago, scientists at major fossil fuel companies considered how climate change should factor into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction. Their concerns echoed the latest science of the time, which showed an increasing link between fossil fuels and global warming.

Corporate decision makers didn’t listen. Instead, they chose to downplay and distort the evidence of climate change, engaging in a decades-long campaign against climate action. Their tactics included everything from counterfeit science, to the harassment of scientists, to manufactured uncertainty with no scientific basis.

Even today, industry trade groups and associations spread disinformation on climate change, while corporate lobbyists influence politicians and regulators—all with the financial backing and support of major fossil fuel companies.


The fossil fuel industry’s role in preventing climate action may come as a surprise to some.

Many leading companies routinely market or brand themselves as being part of the climate solution, while actively working behind the scenes to undermine or limit the scope of climate policies and regulations—a tactic known as “greenwashing.”

But despite their advertisements touting renewable energy, none of the major oil, gas, and coal companies have meaningfully contributed to climate change solutions. They certainly haven’t updated their business plans to reflect climate realities.


Major oil, gas, and coal companies have repeatedly fought efforts to move the United States away from fossil fuels. Some continue to spread disinformation and obstruct climate policies today. All of them are aware of the role their products play in climate impacts.

Thanks in part to research from the Union of Concerned Scientists, ExxonMobil has been sued by the New York attorney general and is under investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general for deceptive practices and potential fraud.

Other fossil fuel companies should heed the warning and immediately stop funding and spreading climate disinformation. They should bear their fair share of responsibility for the damage caused by their products, while stepping out of the way of climate action.

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