Massachusetts High Court case accuses fossil fuel major of decieving investors, breaking laws
ExxonMobil, once the world’s most valuable public company, must face trial over efforts to deny climate change, the Massachusetts High Court in the United States recently ruled.
The Massachesetts attorney general has accused the largest US oil company of breaking the state’s consumer protection laws and of deceiving “investors about the risks to its business posed by global heating”, reported the Guardian daily.
This is the latest in a string of court cases that fossil fuel companies face for their large role in the current climate crisis. A movement has been gathering in the US over the past decade in whcih cities and states sue such companies, claiming hey have “made areas less livable for people, often forcing the government to use public funds to fix the problem”, the Guardian had reported last year.
Complaints include global-warming induced sea level rise that is forcing cities to build sea walls and lies told by the companies about the carbon impact of their products.
The third instalment of the latest report by Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), published in April, also called out the role of fossil fuel companies, in diluting climate action, especially in countries like the US.
Particularly, it highlights that these companies “have attempted to derail climate change mitigation by targeted lobbying and doubt-inducing media strategies”, attempted to “deflect corporate responsibility to individuals”, and lobbied to “maintain producer subsidies”.
a number of corporations that are involved in the supply chain of both upstream and downstream of fossil fuel companies make up the majority of organizations opposed to climate action 6/ pic.twitter.com/m69SwGCfKU— Ajit Niranjan (@NiranjanAjit) April 4, 2022
ExxonMobil’s leaders have known about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released from the use of oil since the 1970s. A presentation by company scientist named James F Black outlined this, and the fact that CO2 levels in the atmosphere were causing global heating.
“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed”, he wrote as reported by InsideClimate News. the company responded by spending the following decades “at the forefront of climate denial”, it claimed, which included lobbying to block government efforts to control emissions and spreading misinformation about climate change.
In the 1990s, it interfered with the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and IPCC, pushing for the involvement of scientists who disagreed with the findings of climate science.
Their recent strategy has been to deflect attention to individual consumers. A study published in the journal One Earth in 2021 by Harvard researchers found that the oil behemoth’s advertisements “worked to shift responsibility for global warming away from the fossil fuel industry and onto consumers”. In doing so, it is downplaying its role in the climate crisis, and continues to “undermine climate litigation, regulation, and activism”.
Since 1965, only 20 companies have been responsible for one-third of the world’s CO2 emissions, and ExxonMobil is fourth on this list – responsible for 41.90 billion tones of CO2 equivalent in emissions.
It was also named in an inquiry by a human rights commission in the Philippines this year as one of the entities that “engaged in wilful obfuscation of climate science”. The report found that their actions may form the basis for liability, and provision of climate reparations.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.