‘Sweet Child of Mine’ is riffing behind blaring news reports of record heatwaves, and George H.W. Bush is on the campaign trail, rallying around climate action: “1988 is in a sense the year the Earth spoke back. Our land, water and soil support a remarkable range of human activities, but they can only take so much.”

This opening scene from the BBC’s podcast How They Made Us Doubt Everything almost feels like an alternative reality rather than a documentary. It’s a reminder of how long we’ve been hearing reports of new record temperatures and politicians saying that we need to act on climate change.

The podcast tells the story of why it’s taken so long for any meaningful climate action to come about. The easily listenable 15-minute episodes expose the tactics used by the PR gurus for the tobacco industry in the 1950s, and subsequently the fossil-fuel industry, to avoid regulation, victim compensation and ultimately any responsibility for their destructive products. Their PR playbook revolved around the mantra “Doubt is our product.” They knew that the science was correct, so they had to create doubt to halt action. By creating detailed segmentation analysis on which members of the public to target, funding scientists and then using scientific jargon against itself, these industries successfully muddied the water so as to be able to carry on business as usual.

Whilst many of us may already be familiar with the events described in the podcast, the extracts from uncovered documents and interviews from those involved are no less shocking. The podcast doesn’t shy away from the media’s role in spreading doubt about climate science. It even tells how the BBC has been complicit, pitching ideological arguments against fact.

Sometimes I wanted the presenter, Peter Pomerantsev, to give more energy and more emotion to the story of such a scandal, but the beauty of this podcast is in its simplicity: to know that the BBC is documenting what we now know as fact, that fossil-fuel companies not only knew about climate change in the 1980s, but also actively worked to undermine action on it.

In a time when disinformation is rife and climate action is more urgent than ever before, we need to know stories such as this – that vested interests will put profit before the health of people and planet. This story has been exposed, but how many scandals such as this are yet to be uncovered?

Gwen Buck is policy adviser for Green Alliance. She tweets at @EcoGwen