New evidence suggests that fossil fuel companies lied for decades about the harm they knew their products would cause to global climate. The new climate activism is calling them to account.
N ext time your evening newscast calls for a deadly heatwave, it may be time to ask whether it’s actually a “Climate Crimewave.” Because while scientists have known for years that the global climate is changing and humans are the primary cause, it is only recently that lawyers have realized that the fossil energy companies responsible may be criminally liable.
The “Exxon Knew” bombshell series, published last fall by Inside Climate News, outlined a long-running conspiracy by industry to deceive the government, consumers, and shareholders about the link between fossil fuels and climate change. Coal, oil, and gas companies had long denied the fossil energy-climate link, even as their own scientists told them their core products risked catastrophic world harm.
As a result of these new disclosures, several state Attorneys General have begun investigations into potential criminal liability. Led by New York State AG Eric T. Schneiderman, who served subpoenas on ExxonMobil, other state AGs are now preparing to follow suit. Members of Congress have also called for a full Justice Department investigation.
The legal grounds for liability of the fossil fuel industry are compelling:
• Intentional deception of consumers, shareholders, and the government could give rise to both criminal and civil charges of consumer and financial fraud.
• In addition to climate deception, there is evidence today of a widespread, very deliberate effort by industry and utilities to block public access to safe, renewable energy that may constitute a felony violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
• Finally, civil cases are being brought to protect farmers and property owners from the devastating impacts of droughts, wildfires, and sea-level rise.
We are on the brink of a revolution in climate advocacy that targets the very companies whose products caused the climate crisis, that publicly lied about it for years, and recklessly blocked an effective global response—all at the certain cost of planetary instability and irreparable harm to future generations.
Wallace Global Fund is proud to support groups that are helping bring those who commit Climate Crimes to justice.
Among our most active grantees:
- Climate Accountability Institute
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- Center for International Environmental Law
- Inside Climate News
- West Coast Environmental Law
- Global Warming Legal Action Project