Quantcast

4 Ways Exxon Stopped Action on Climate Change

Climate

In the last few months, exposé after exposé has uncovered how Exxon knew about the dangerous reality of climate change before the media, politicians and just about everyone else. But instead of doing the right thing or even just sitting on its evidence, Exxon did something much more insidious. It tried to hide the truth from all of us.

Exxon has known about the dangerous reality of climate change for decades. Photo credit: Greenpeace International

As we approach COP21, a global meeting to address the climate crisis, let’s take a look back on four examples of how far Exxon has gone to stop climate action:

1. That Time Exxon Learned in 1982 That Climate Change Would Lead to Environmental Catastrophe

As early as 1977, Exxon’s own scientists were researching human-caused global warming. Exxon dedicated a substantial research budget to studying carbon emissions, developed sophisticated models and published its findings in peer reviewed journals. By 1982, an internal company report told Exxon management “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered … Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.”

So Exxon knew. But instead of acting to protect the planet, Exxon acted to protect its profits. It spent the next three decades funding and spreading climate denial. Exxon funded groups like ALEC, the Heartland Institute and the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition—all of which ran successful public climate denial campaigns. The Advancement of Sound Science got its start challenging the dangers of secondhand smoke, so climate denialism wasn’t a big stretch. And ALEC—a climate-denying front group that peddles its pro-corporate legislation to U.S. statehouses—spread misinformation so egregious that Shell’s investors forced the oil giant to cut ties.

Hurricane Sandy aftermath in New Jersey. Oct. 30, 2012. Photo credit: Greenpeace / Tim Aubry

Now, the catastrophic events Exxon predicted are here. But Exxon continues to fund climate denialism to this day.

2. That Time Exxon Paid for a PR Strategy to Convince the World Climate Change Wasn’t Real 

Of course, Exxon isn’t alone in funding and spreading climate denialism. In 1988, Exxon joined a group of fossil fuel companies and industry front groups organized by the American Petroleum Institute to create the Global Climate Science Communications Plan. The group spent $2 million dollars on a plan to get the average citizens and the media to "'understand' (recognize) uncertainties” in climate science and for these uncertainties become part of the “‘conventional wisdom.’” That “uncertainty” set the planet back decades in terms of climate change policy—and it’s one reason people who don’t believe in science can run for president in the U.S.

3. That Time ExxonMobil Got the U.S. to Withdraw From the Kyoto Protocol

For decades, Mobil—and then ExxonMobil—ran a weekly “advertorial” on the opinion page of the New York Times. After the 2000 election, these advertorials practically became a guidebook for the new Bush administration.

In January 2001, an Exxon advertorial called the Kyoto Protocol “unrealistic” and “economically damaging” because of its “fundamental flaws.” When President Bush gave his now-infamous June 2001 speech on climate change, he echoed Exxon—calling the policy “unrealistic,” “fatally flawed in fundamental ways” and said it would have had a “negative economic impact.”

Sandbagging action against ExxonMobil in New Zealand during a global warming protest. June 12, 2001. Photo credit: Greenpeace / Mark Coote

The harm this caused to the planet is undeniable.

 4. That Time Exxon Called the Current New York Attorney General Investigation Into Its Deception a “Distraction”

 “I really don’t want this to be a distraction.” That’s ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson talking about the New York Attorney General’s investigation into Exxon’s “possible climate change lies.” Then there’s Exxon flack Dick Keil, calling Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s suggestion that Exxon be investigated for corruption “complete bullshit.”

Tillerson sounds a lot like Tony “I’d like my life back” Hayward in the midst of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. We can all sympathize with beleaguered CEOs in the middle of a corporate PR disaster, but the Exxon investigation is more than a distraction. The Attorney General is looking into Exxon’s history of misleading statements on climate change, to investors and to the public. California and the Philippines might be next and the public is clamoring for a federal Department of Justice investigation. Rex Tillerson and Dick Keil might be in denial, but Exxon’s woes aren’t going anywhere.

Typhoon survivors and civil society groups in the Philippines, delivered a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), calling for an investigation into the responsibly of big fossil fuel companies for fueling catastrophic climate change that is resulting in human rights violations. Sept. 22, 2015. Photo credit: Greenpeace / Vincent Go

The truth is that ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies fueled climate debate for years knowing the harm it was causing. Join us and support an investigation into Exxon and other Big Oil companies now.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Pope Francis: ‘Catastrophic’ Climate if Paris Talks Fail

Groups Demand French President Lift Ban on Climate Protests and Marches

World Begins to Turn Its Back on Carbon

100% Renewable-Powered World ‘Technically Feasible and Economically Viable’ by 2030

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Two silver-backed chevrotain caught on camera trap. The species has only recently been rediscovered after being last seen in 1990. GWC / Mongabay

By Jeremy Hance

VIETNAM, July 2019 – I'm chasing a ghost, I think not for the first time, as night falls and I gather up my gear in a hotel in a village in southern Vietnam. I pack my camera, a bottle of water, and a poncho; outside the window I can see a light rain.

Read More Show Less
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 11, 2005. NOAA Photo Library / Lieut. Commander Mark Moran

The most destructive hurricanes are three times more frequent than they were a century ago, new research has found, and this can be "unequivocally" linked to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less