The movie “Merchants of Doubt,” took a satirical and accurate look at the lengths the fossil fuel industry have gone to promote climate change denial. Last fall, the New York State Attorney General began an investigation of ExxonMobil regarding their purposeful misleading of shareholders and investors on the impact of climate change on their business. Lying to the public and customers is one thing, but lying to investors is a fraudulent crime.
In the recent issue of the Sierra Club magazine, the case against ExxonMobil is very compelling and follows some excellent investigative reporting by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News, a Pulitzer Prize winning new site. And, one more state Attorney General has added his state’s weight to the investigation.
Apparently, ExxonMobil was very prolific in investigating the impact of burning fossil fuels on the environment dating back to the 1970s. Yet, they shelved that work in the late 1990s, as it did not fit in with their climate change denial charade, per the Sierra article called “Big Oil in the Hot Seat.” A few quotes from ExxonMobil internal meetings and external statements paint the picture as quoted from the Sierra article. Note Exxon is referenced below as it predates the merger of the two oil giants.
In a 1982 memo circulated to Exxon executives – “Exxon’s environmental affairs manager reported that addressing the greenhouse effect ‘would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion’ and that without the reductions ‘there are some potential catastrophic events that must be considered.’ ”
At a 1991 conference, an ice researcher with Exxon’s Canadian division told a group of engineers “Greenhouse gases are increasing ‘due to the burning of fossil fuels. Nobody disputes that fact ‘ ”
Yet, during a 1999 Exxon shareholders meeting, then CEO Lee Raymond “waved away climate science as ‘sheer speculation.’ ”
It should be noted that ExxonMobil has been a leading funder of groups who are polarizing the debate over climate science. Per Greenpeace USA, the company has contributed over $30 million to such groups between 1998 and 2014. These are the groups that were portrayed in the movie “Merchants of Doubt.”
It is ironic that this is how the tobacco industry was exposed after eight CEOs lied to a Congressional Committee in the 1990s that tobacco was not addictive, when internal memos dating back to the 1960s said it was. Pun-intended, the smoking gun was there in the files all the time. It should not be lost on anyone that the same PR people handled both the tobacco and fossil fuel industry’s disinformation campaigns.
This is serious stuff for ExxonMobil. If they misled shareholders, this is fraud. But, it is not just the investors who are harmed. Climate change is real and is man-influenced. We must now move to address these issues as we are behind the curve on this. Please consider the stances on climate change of each candidate. It is that crucial, as we can no longer tolerate denial and we cannot unwind progress in the move toward renewable energy. We cannot afford a President who does not recognize climate change for the danger it represents today and for our children.