For a long time, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell have denied climate change, which they were sure was serious. That with billions of dollars, the American, British and Anglo-Dutch oil giants circulated false information and financed climate skeptics. That they methodically hindered all policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, all eyes are on France. Surprising revelations have emerged about Total and Elf. If researchers claim that the two oil giants knew as early as 1971 that their activity would have a negative impact on the environment, it could be that they also tried to suppress the information.
Pollution from the oil industries is known to be one of the most impactful in the world. In an internal Total magazine, several passages suggest that the famous company was informed from the beginning of the 1970s of the harmful effects of their activities on the planet. "It is not impossible according to some, to envisage at least partial melting of the ice caps of the poles, which would undoubtedly result in a sensitive display of the sea level. Its catastrophic consequences are easy to imagine" , warned an expert in climatology in the magazine.
However, Total denied the accusations in a press release.
In a confidential document dated 1993, we can read instructions given to management to answer questions on climate impact: "Show that, contrary to a fashionable idea, ecology is more destructive than creator of jobs " , can we read in addition to other advice on the elements of language to adopt.
Many researchers therefore accuse Total of having minimized, or even knowingly denied, the impact of its activity on global warming.
It seems hard to believe that, in an activity that generates more than 33% of greenhouse gas emissions, one can think that the environment is doing it unscathed.
Reality tends rather to the contrary. Indeed, the Total group has been measuring this harmful impact for a very long time. In an internal report revealed by the program "Complément d'études" , in 1971, members of Total produced documents attesting to their full awareness of the deleterious effect of the group's activity.
Greenpeace denounces Total greenwashing
Researcher at the CNRS, Christophe Bonneuil unearthed these Total archives, hitherto kept secret. For him too, there is no doubt that the group would have consciously minimized the consequences of its oil activities. "There is really a gap between what was said internally and what the general public knew. We are at a time when the environmental issue is emerging in the public space and at a time when the Total company must develop knowledge and strategies " , explains the historian. For Greenpeace, Total has not changed its strategy, just revitalized its image. The group continues to make 90% of its investments in fossil fuels.