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Geoffrey Supran, Naomi Oreskes


8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts

Resource Types

  • Article
  • Video, 1 minute, 10 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States

The Forgotten Oil Ads That Told Us Climate Change Was Nothing

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  • This article details the strategies used in oil and gas industry advertisements since the 1960s.
  • Students will learn when oil executives knew about global warming, what persuasive strategies they used to convince the public not to worry, and how these strategies changed with public perception.
Teaching Tips


  • This article is eye-opening and will be interesting for students to read.
  • The included visuals tell the story well and add a great component to the article.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a good understanding of climate change and the motivations of profit-based businesses.
  • You may want to tell students that the video is about a oil and gas company's renewable initiative before they watch it.


  • This resource would work equally well in science classes learning about the history of climate change, language arts classes focusing on persuasive rhetoric, or in economics classes.
  • Cross-curricular connections could also be made in art classes by studying the ads or in social studies classes debating the actions of these corporations. 
  • Middle school students would likely benefit from reading this resource as a group and discussing. Use the images and subtitles to drive the conversation.
  • High school and college students should be able to read the article independently and be ready to have a robust conversation.
  • Consider having students choose an ad to write about. They can write a rebuttal to the ad or an open letter the to the oil company.
Scientist Notes
This resource is an article from the Guardian that discusses the fossil fuel industry's long running disinformation, propaganda, and lobbying campaign to deny climate change and delay climate change policy. Advertisements spanning decades from fossil fuel companies are provided so that students are able to see the long running misinformation campaign. The advertisements are then refuted by the actual science and the knowledge that these industry leaders had at the time. The example advertisements run from plain misinformation to fear mongering. The examples run through 2018, explaining that the issues of misinformation are still persistent. This article would be a great addition to a classroom discussing the misinformation that occurs surrounding climate change and a perfect way to have students question where their information is coming from.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.10.6-8 Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.
    • Dimension 3: Gathering and Evaluating Sources
      • D3.2.6-8 Evaluate the credibility of a source by determining its relevance and intended use.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.10 By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
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