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Ann Carlson in CBC: Why Big Oil faces court cases that echo the litigation against Big Tobacco in the ’90s

How much did the oil industry know about the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the climate? When did they know it? And what did they do with that knowledge? 

Those are the central questions in a series of court cases attempting to hold companies accountable for their role in climate change. 

It’s been called Big Oil’s “Big Tobacco” moment, echoing the famous litigation that exposed how tobacco companies deliberately generated scientific uncertainty even though they knew that cigarettes cause cancer.

“They are brought under very similar legal theory,” said Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the UCLA School of Law. “That is that the companies are creating a public harm or public nuisance by misleading the public about whether their product actually causes harm.”