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Fossil Fuels are the New Tobacco, Health Experts Say

Thirty years ago, we witnessed a massive divestment from the tobacco industry, spurred largely by health professionals who claimed that such investments threatened their Hippocratic Oath.

Today, the public health threat of climate change is even more significant than that of tobacco. Yet fossil fuel companies – just like their tobacco counterparts – continue to “fund the subversion of scientific research into climate change and legislation directed at its mitigation.

“The big message… is that climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation.”

Professor Anthony Costello, UCL Institute for Global Health, and lead author of the 2009 UCL-Lancet Commission, Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change​ Tweet


The tobacco industry’s tactics to cast doubt on health science are now being applied to climate science. In 2006, a US District Court Judge ruled that the tobacco industry maximized “industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”

Similarly, there is evidence that, as long as 40 years ago, ExxonMobil’s own research correctly identified the signs of human-caused climate change. In 2015 The Guardian reported that Exxon gave $30M to groups promoting disinformation about global warming, and another $2.3M to Congress members and corporate lobbying groups who were denying and blocking climate change efforts. All this despite Exxon’s pledge to end the funding of climate change denial in 2007.


Experts predict significant health risks both directly – through extreme events and increasing heat-induced mortality rates – and indirectly – through migrating populations, food insecurity, water quality, and patterns of disease if climate change trends continue.[1]
Divestment from fossil fuels advocates for the transition to a healthier, more sustainable economy. It worked with tobacco; it will work with fossil fuels.
[1] Not to mention the social, economic, environmental and mental repercussions of such effects.