A Twitter poll from Shell asking what people would be prepared to do to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions has spectacularly backfired, prompting an international online backlash against the Anglo-Dutch oil & gas supermajor’s track record of fossil fuel operations.

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Shell’s online poll, posted on 3 October, asked: "What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions?”

Although Shell’s poll received just 199 votes, the tweet went viral – but not for the reasons the company would have wished.

US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one high-profile respondent, posting a tweet that was liked some 350,000 times.

“I’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet,” the Democrat wrote.

Bill Weir, chief climate correspondent at CNN, also weighed in, tweeting: “This is like Freddy Krueger asking what you’re willing to change to get better sleep.”

Of the almost 200 that responded to Shell’s #EnergyDebate poll, 44.7% said they would use renewable energy, while 25.6% said that they would be prepared to drive electric vehicles. While some 23% said they would offset their carbon emissions, just 6.5% said they would be prepared to stop flying.

“I don’t know about you but I sure am willing to call out the fossil fuel companies for knowingly destroying future living conditions for countless generations for profit and then trying to distract people and prevent real systemic change through endless greenwash campaigns,” tweeted Swedish climate and environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Shell within hours pulled the plug on its poll but not before responding to the barrage of tweets – none of which appeared to be complimentary.

“Changing the energy system requires everyone to play their part. That’s what Tuesday’s #EnergyDebate was about,” tweeted Shell.

“As for our part, we said last week that Shell will reshape its portfolio of assets and products to meet the cleaner energy needs of its customers in the coming decades.”

European oil & gas supermajors are slowly ramping up commitment to the energy transition but the wider petroleum industry has “remained steady in its identity and role” in the global energy mix, according to Capgemini’s latest World Energy Markets Observatory report, with the sector investing less than 1% of its capital in non-fossil-based projects – making climate action targets “very challenging to reach”.