California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he filed a lawsuit against five of the world's largest oil and gas companies, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, alleging that they misled consumers about the impact that the use of fossil fuels will have on the planet.  

In announcing the lawsuit, Bonta said, "Oil and gas companies have privately known the truth for decades — that the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change — but have fed us lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profits at the expense of our environment."

The complaint, which runs more than 130 pages, alleges a variety of claims, including public nuisance, damage to natural resources, false advertising, misleading environmental marketing, unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business practices, and products liability. 

The essence of the AG's complaint is that, even though fossil fuel companies knew about the environmental harms associated with the use of fossil fuels, they "mounted a disinformation campaign beginning at least as early as the 1970s to discredit the burgeoning scientific consensus on climate change; deny their own knowledge of climate change related threats; create doubt in the minds of consumers, the media, teachers, policymakers, and the public about the reality and consequences of the impacts of burning fossil fuels; and delay the necessary transition to a lower-carbon future." 

California joins a number of other jurisdictions alleging similar claims.  We'll be closing watching these lawsuits as they develop.  Not only could they have significant impact on the fossil fuel companies, of course, but these cases could also provide further guidance to marketers generally about the extent to which they are responsible for larger societal harms that could result in connection with the use of their products.