UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres skewered oil firms on Wednesday for having “peddled the big lie” about their role in global warming, telling the World Economic Forum that they should be held accountable. Addressing a room full of the world’s business and political elite, Guterres drew a parallel between the actions of oil companies and those of tobacco companies that have been hit by huge lawsuits over the adverse effects of cigarettes. “We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their core product was baking our planet,” Guterres said. He was referring to a study published in the journal Science that said ExxonMobil had dismissed the findings of its own scientists on the role of fossil fuels in climate change. “Just like the tobacco industry, they rode roughshod over their own science,” Guterres said, referring to lawsuits that determined cigarette companies had hidden the dangers of their products. “Some in Big Oil peddled the big lie. And like the tobacco industry, those responsible must be held to account,” he said. In 1998, US states won a landmark settlement against tobacco companies worth $246 billion aimed at recovering the costs of treating smokers from the harmful effects of cigarettes. The study on ExxonMobil found that the firm’s scientists had modelled and predicted global warming “with shocking accuracy”, only for the company “to spend the next couple of decades denying that very climate science”. ExxonMobil is the target of a number of lawsuits in the United States. Asked about the Science report, an ExxonMobil spokesman said last week that the issue had come up several times in recent years and in each case the company’s answer was that “those who talk about how ‘Exxon Knew’ are wrong in their conclusions”.