THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST FOSSIL FUEL FIRMS

A list of accusations, evidence, legal case studies, historical facts, and news articles has been compiled for the Climate Class Action campaign.

Soaring greenhouse gas emissions have resulted in, and will continue to result in, a significant increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events, including floods and landslides, hurricanes and coastal erosion, heatwaves and drought, wildfires and increased air pollution, and exacerbation of the spread of infectious diseases. These events also trigger economic inflation, hunger, mass migration, civil wars, and mass mortality.

WHY FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES ARE LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE

● THEY KNEW
Major fossil fuel companies have been aware of the consequences of greenhouse emissions for more than half a century. Scientists have been warning governments about global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels and its consequences for society since the 1960s. Companies like Exxon and Shell internally commissioned studies in the early 1980s that assessed the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions. These studies already precisely established that the emissions from their products would generate a surge in global temperatures causing hurricanes, sea level rise, drought, floods, wildfires and many other climate calamities; they even predicted mass migrations and social unrest resulting from global warming. The documents of these scientific studies commissioned by the fossil fuel firms remained secret for decades, as they failed to disclose material facts intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly.

● THEY LIED
The fossil fuel industry has perpetrated a multi-decade, multi-billion dollar disinformation, propaganda, and lobbying campaign to delay climate action by deceiving the public and policymakers about the climate crisis and its solutions. This has involved a remarkable number of advertisements in which fossil fuel firms have run climate denial messages on television, newspapers, and the Internet. After having denied the existence of climate change and their role in causing it, they kept spreading misleading advertising by promoting fossil fuels as integral to “climate solutions” without disclosing that fossil fuels are in fact the primary cause of climate change. In waging these deceptive advertising campaigns, fossil fuel firms are intentionally depriving consumers of information that is key to their purchase decisions.

● THEY CAUSED DAMAGE
The economic damage of the climate crisis is skyrocketing. In 2022 alone, extreme weather caused 18 disasters costing the U.S. $165 billion. However these figures don’t consider real estate losses, the disruption of supply chains, and increased scarcity of resources, including water. Besides personal harm, there are business damages that affect a variety of industries and related services, resulting in rising inflation, while huge losses are generated by ruining real estate, properties, infrastructures, and equipment. The whole world economy is at risk, while the fossil fuel firms make staggering profits, sheltering them in tax havens and in countries less affected by climate change. The economic damage caused by fossil fuel firms will impact everyone - while the governments and citizens pay losses, the gains are not taxed and reinvested in mitigation and adaptation.

● THEY DIDN’T INNOVATE
For decades the fossil fuel firms haven’t innovated their technology to emit less greenhouse emissions, even though they were well aware of their consequences, nor have they developed new renewable energy production. Instead they have engaged in price fixing to speculate on fossil fuel supply by forming cartels and controlling business and trade organizations like OPEC. They have marketed themselves as clean innovative companies with the goal of attracting new consumers to their fossil fuel products, while blocking cleaner alternatives that contribute substantially less to climate change. The majority of their investments is in extracting and producing fossil fuels, as they monopolize the energy industry by acquiring patents, technologies, and projects for renewable energy alternatives just to keep them out of the market and not developing them, as it would be less profitable.

● THEY MISLED THE PUBLIC
The largest oil and gas companies and their top industry trade associations have systematically and intentionally misled consumers about the central role their products play in the climate crisis. Moreover, they mislead consumers with green-washing advertisements designed to represent their companies as environmentally responsible, focused on developing green technology and products, while in reality their investment in clean energy sources is minuscule, and their business models continue to center on the fossil fuel products driving climate change. They have nevertheless engaged in a coordinated, multi-front effort to conceal and deny their own knowledge of the damage they cause, discredit the growing body of publicly available scientific evidence, and persistently create doubt in the minds of customers, consumers, regulators, the media, journalists, teachers, and the public about the reality and consequences of the impact of their fossil fuel pollution. Their deception is effective, as fossil fuel companies are making massive profits, which in turn has enabled the unabated and expanded extraction, production, marketing, and sale of fossil fuels.

● THEY MISLED INVESTORS
The fossil fuel industry has misled investors by presenting false and misleading assurances that it effectively manages economic risks posed to its business by climate change regulations, lawsuits, and consequent fines and legal costs. Moreover, they misled investors about the risk of ‘stranded assets’ of fossil fuels reserves, and how the whole fossil fuel industry might collapse in favor of demand for more renewable energy. These potential massive losses in revenues and share value can affect investors. Shareholders include pension funds, municipalities, states, and other public stakeholders, which might be affected by mass losses because of the misleading financial projections by the fossil fuel industry. Misrepresentations and omissions of real, tangible facts as described here constitute actual fraud. Investors might suffer damages in connection with purchasing and retaining financial derivatives that were the direct and proximate result of fossil fuel firms’ fraud.

● THEY DON’T PAY TO REPAIR
Instead of helping to clean up and compensate those affected by their products, the fossil fuel firms deny their accountability, aggressively avoiding their responsibility in fixing and paying for the damages caused by their products. They fight legal litigations that would make them pay and don’t have insurance that would cover the damages caused. They fight carbon taxes that create revenues to repair, help, and compensate for the losses and damage they cause. Lately fossil fuel firms are initiating projects for decarbonization and carbon capture of their products by asking for public investment from governments at taxpayers’ expense. Yet, these technologies for decarbonization and greenhouse gas capture are not efficient, and they shouldn’t be economically exploited by the same companies that have interest in lowering the cost of production of the same emissions they generate.

● THEY CORRUPT POLITICS
Fossil fuel companies have lobbied to avoid regulation of their emissions and industries. During political elections, they fund parties and politicians who are against regulating or taxing greenhouse emissions, while corrupting politicians around the world to get permits and licenses to find and extract fossil fuels. They lobby even inside the same institutions dedicated to tackling climate change; in fact the fossil fuel firms were not questioned or even mentioned by the World Bank nor the IMF, international climate agreements, nor by anyone over the course of decades of negotiations and policymaking during UN and COP conferences. This corruption reached its disgraceful apex in 2023, with the presidency of COP being held by an oil company executive.

● THEY POLLUTED THE MOST
The 100 major oil, gas, and coal producers have generated over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, making them the greatest threat to citizens and society as whole. The historical study “Carbon Major Database” by the Climate Accountability Institute determined precise responsibilities each international fossil fuel firm has. The cumulative greenhouse emissions by the major fossil fuel firms in the United States, Europe, and United Kingdom are approximately 20% of the total emitted worldwide. China accounts for 17%, Russia 9%, and the Middle East 14%. These statistics prove that companies from the U.S., U.K., and E.U. maintain a great amount of responsibility for having triggered the climate crisis. Furthermore, the trade of fossil fuel has been driven by western countries, which acquired licenses to extract fossil fuel or buy it from foreign countries. Therefore, despite the origin of extraction, the greater amount of emissions comes from the production and consumption of fossil fuels by western countries. For instance, the United States has emitted a quarter of the total world greenhouse gasses, more than any other country.

● THEY MADE RECORD PROFIT
The oil sector alone made astounding profits at the dizzying rate of $3 Billion-a-Day for many decades. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry receives public subsidies of $11 Million-a-Minute and often billions in tax breaks or isn’t taxed at all. In addition, the biggest banks in the world have provided billions to the oil, gas, and coal firms as investment in new extraction of fossil fuel. Recently, in 2022, fossil fuel firms made record profits. ExxonMobil reported record $20 billion quarterly profit, and Shell posted almost $10 billion, and yet they are still investing more money in new fossil fuel extraction, despite net zero pledges.



EVIDENCE

The Climate Class Action project is based on factual events, scientific data and research, as well as concrete legal cases. In the following links you can find all necessary information to support a Climate Class Action with evidence and accusationsagainst fossil fuel companies.

Background Facts and Data:






LEGAL CASES

A selection of legal cases underway in the U.S. is offered by the Center for Climate Integrity, or find all historical and international legal cases in the Climate Change Litigation Databases. Cases in the databases are organized by type of claim and are searchable. For many cases, links are available to decisions, complaints, and other case documents. Follow the newsletter about climate litigation and justice by Isabella Kaminski. Meanwhile you can read brief news articles about seminal climate lawsuits against fossil fuel firms.

Seminal climate lawsuits in the original documents: Currently, there are more than twenty legal cases underway in the U.S. to make fossil fuel companies pay for climate disasters, follow the recent news on climate litigation on Twitter.





CARBON MAJORS - BIG OIL, COAL, AND GAS PRODUCERS

Thanks to Attribution Science it is now possible to calculate how much the major fossil firms have contributed to climate change over the past decades, and thereby calculate how much economic damage they have caused for society, and for you.

The Carbon Majors Database established specific responsibilities for each international fossil fuel firm, and deduced that the 100 major oil, gas, and coal producers have generated over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. The Carbon Majors Database was established in 2013 by Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute.



Books and Publications

- From Big Oil to Big Green by Marco Grasso, MIT Press
- Ending Fossil Fuels by Holly Jean Buck, Verso Books




NEWS ARTICLES

Articles on Climate Litigations

Why 2023 will be a watershed year for climate litigation
By Isabella Kaminski
The Guardian, January 4, 2023


Oil firms accused of scare tactics after claiming climate lawsuits ‘a threat to US’
By Chris McGreal
The Guardian, January 25, 2022


Exxon must go to trial over alleged climate crimes, court rules
By Chris McGreal
The Guardian, May 24, 2022


Fossil fuel industry faces surge in climate lawsuits
By Isabella Kaminski
The Guardian, June 30, 2022


US fossil fuel firm sues insurer for refusing to cover climate lawsuit
By Isabella Kaminski
The Guardian, August 30, 2022


Supreme Court Considers Baltimore Suit Against Oil Companies Over Climate Change
By Rebecca Hersher
NPR, January 19, 2021


German court to hear Peruvian farmer's climate case against RWE
The Guardian, August 25, 2021


New climate science could cause wave of litigation against businesses
By Fiona Harvey
The Guardian, June 29, 2021


Big oil is the new big tobacco. Congress must use its power to investigate
By Naomi Oreskes, Geoffrey Supran
The Guardian, January 21, 2020


Crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change
By Erin McCormick
The Guardian, January 8, 2020


The Oil Giants Might Finally Pay for Pulling the Biggest Hoax of All
By Charles P. Pierce
Esquire, August 7, 2019


If climate change wrecks your city, can it sue Exxon?
By Josh Dzieza
The Verge, February 20, 2018




WHY SUE THE FOSSIL FIRMS
● THEY LIED
● THEY KNEW
● THEY CAUSED DAMAGE
● THEY DIDN’T INNOVATE
● THEY MISLED THE PUBLIC
● THEY MISLED INVESTORS
● THEY DON’T PAY REPAIRS
● THEY CORRUPT POLITICS
● THEY POLLUTED THE MOST
● THEY MADE RECORD PROFIT


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