TotalEnergies has hit back at claims it “downplayed” the potential for fossil fuels to lead to “catastrophic global warming” in the 1970s.
The French supermajor says its knowledge of climate risk 50 years ago was “no different” from that published in scientific journals at the time, and it is therefore “wrong to claim” it covered up the perils.
It added that it “deplores the process” of digging up a situation from decades ago without highlighting the “efforts, changes, progress and investments” the company has made since then.
It follows the publication of a study today by researchers from CNRS, SciencesPo and Stanford University.
The paper, entitled ‘Early warnings and emerging accountability: Total’s responses to global warming, 1971–2021’, accuses the Parish-headquartered company of a catalogue of cover-ups.
It claims to show that Total, now TotalEnergies, workers “received warnings of the potential for catastrophic global warming from its products by 1971”.
It then “became more fully informed of the issue” in the 1980s and “began promoting doubt regarding the scientific basis for global warming” later that decade, the paper said.
According to researchers, in the late 1990s the oil and gas giant “ultimately settled on a position” of publicly accepting climate science, while “promoting policy delay or policies peripheral to fossil fuel control”.
Academics behind the research say the claims are based on archives, as well as interviews with former bosses who “shared with us their recollections of the company’s history with regard to climate change”.
TotalEnergies has been quick to respond to the paper, saying it “regrets that is was never approached or consulted by the authors”.
In a statement, the company said that, as the paper itself states, for around 25 years it has “publicly and openly” accepted the findings of climate science.
Moreover, since 2015 the company has been engaged in a “profound transformation of its activities” with the ambition of becoming “one of the world’s top five renewable energy players by 2030”.
Along with other oil and gas players, TotalEnergies (LON: TTE) has set itself a target to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Total announced plans for a rebrand earlier this year in order to better reflect its efforts to be a broad energy company.
The move to become TotalEnergies was overwhelmingly backed by the majority of shareholders.
When the change officially went through in May, Patrick Pouyanné, chairman and chief executive officer of TotalEnergies, said: “Energy is life. We all need it and it’s a source of progress. So today, to contribute to the sustainable development of the planet facing the climate challenge, we are moving forward, together, towards new energies.
“Energy is reinventing itself, and this energy journey is ours. Our ambition is to be a world-class player in the energy transition. That is why Total is transforming and becoming TotalEnergies.”
Since then the company has announced its participation in the ScotWind leasing round in order to compete to build the next generation of wind farms in Scottish waters.
And earlier this week, Mr Pouyanne was in Aberdeen to announce the city as the home for TotalEnergies UK Offshore Wind Hub.