Aftershocks of a Paper – «Early Warnings and Emerging Environmental Accountability: Total’s Responses to Global Warming»

In this communication, we develop a retrospective analysis of the aftershocks that followed the publication of a historical paper in October 2021. In this study, we (Bonneuil, Franta, and I) relied on new archival research and on primary source interviews in order to describe the long history of Total’s awareness of climate science and subsequent industry coordination, public communication, and lobbying activity regarding climate change. Our findings that Total personnel received warnings of the potential for catastrophic global warming from its products by 1971 and began promoting doubt regarding the scientific basis for global warming by the late 1980s received huge short-term media attention, and significantly constrained the company's discourse on global warming. In this communication, we reflect upon the implications of developing such «toothed» knowledge on climate-related issues and propose new avenues for intensifying the dialogue between the natural and social sciences.