Fake news and denial

‘Fake news’ might be a relatively new phrase but it describes something the fossil fuel industry has been involved in for years. Oil and gas companies were aware of the risks of climate change and the need to cut carbon emissions in the late eighties.

But instead of taking action, they set about spreading disinformation and casting doubt on what scientists were saying. The consequences of this funding of climate denial are still preventing progress on climate change today.

And it’s not just climate change where fossil fuel companies have sought to distort the truth. When oil spills and other disasters occur, companies try to spin the story and shift blame to other contractors or even local communities.  

  • BP, Shell and Statoil/Equinor are all members of the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful lobby group involved in actively spreading denial and opposing climate laws
  • Oil industry tactics to spread denial included forged letters to Congress, secret funding of a supposedly independent scientist and the creation of fake grassroots organizations
  • BP employees recently made political donations to US politicians who still deny that climate change is real

Case Studies

How oil companies joined forces to spread doubt and denial

Oil companies have caused huge damage by spreading doubt about the seriousness of climate change and fuelling climate science denial.

Shell knew about climate change – and did worse than nothing

Shell has been aware of climate change for over 30 years, but the company’s been telling the public a very different story.

Dodging responsibility for Deepwater Horizon

Eight years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, causing the largest marine oil spill in history. BP was ultimately deemed to be responsible for the disaster — but at the time, you wouldn’t have known it.