Shearer on Fossil Fuel Companies’ Liability for Disinformation

Christina Shearer asks an interesting question: Will fossil fuel companies face liability for climate change? She’s not looking at the question of whether they’re liable for selling fossil fuels, but rather at the question of whether, by funding and disseminating research that they know to be false, they’re guilty of a tort, and can be held liable for damages.

…while people and companies enjoy the First Amendment right to free speech, legal scholars have argued that right does not extend to influencing people under false pretenses. According to former tobacco industry lawyer Stephen Susman, when it comes to fossil fuel companies and supporters funding their own research on climate change, if “they knew the information they were spreading was false and being used to deliberately influence public opinion — that would override their First Amendment rights.”

This question may soon be playing out in the courts.

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