Exxon’s Climate Denial Saga Continues to Unravel

by Rodrigo Estrada Patiño

July 20, 2016

In case you missed it while you were out catching Pokémon, House Republicans have issued subpoenas to Attorneys General investigating ExxonMobil and to the groups that denounced the company’s colossal climate denial scheme, including Greenpeace USA.

© Robert Visser / Greenpeace

Representative Lamar Smith, backed by other Republicans sitting on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, issued subpoenas to Attorneys General investigating ExxonMobil and to the groups that have denounced the company’s colossal climate denial scheme, including Greenpeace USA.

It’s a tactic right out of the corporate playbook, designed to protect their interests.

Exxon has known about climate change for almost 40 years. Yet the company still spent millions of dollars protecting its bottom line by funding front groups, scientists, and politicians to deny scientific evidence and seed confusion in the public’s perception about the dangers of a warming planet.

So what?

Instead of working to prevent climate change — the largest human crisis of our generation — when it had the chance, Exxon decided to put its massive resources in greedy hands, which did everything in their power to stop meaningful action to solve the problem. If you love timelines — like I do — check out this one on the history of Exxon’s climate denial.

But why?

Simple: to protect its profits and make its shareholders, the government, and the public believe that fossil fuels were the only option to provide energy for our economy. It’s really that simple. (Read that timeline! Hint: take a look at 1998.)

Hasn’t Exxon stopped?

Not really.

Exxon’s approach is to continue to cash in on carbon emissions — still through oil, but even more so through natural gas. And to be clear, Exxon has not fully stopped pouring money into climate denial. The company’s 2015 “Corporate Citizenship Report” revealed that it is still funding groups that sow doubt about climate science and solutions and block climate policy and regulations.

How can we hold Exxon — and friends — accountable?

Greenpeace USA and other progressive organizations have been flagging Exxon’s colossal climate denial scheme since the early 2000’s. (Seriously, read the timeline.) It took some good investigative journalism by the Los Angeles Times and the Pulitzer Prize-winning InsideClimate News to catch the attention of the larger public by revealing additional evidence of Exxon’s irresponsible and reckless actions.

Whose attention have they caught? A few brave Attorneys General that have launched their own investigations into Exxon’s climate denial. This is the clearest sign yet that Exxon went too far in their deception about science. This could be the greatest act of fraud in history when you think of the global implications of climate change and the harm that could have been prevented. 

What’s stopping us?

Exxon and the fossil fuel industry have a solid record when it comes to winning over politicians with money — money that comes from the releasing and burning the carbon that contributes to climate change. Exxon’s Congressional yes-men are trying to make the issue so polarized and toxic that the need for investigations is overlooked while they continue business-as-usual.

That’s why some House Republicans decided to issue these subpoenas.

We are not going to go quietly in the night. We must support the Attorneys General to continue with their investigations and the Department of Justice should step up and follow suit. Exxon’s influence over politicians must be halted because our political and legal systems are there to protect us citizens and our communities — not potential fraud and corporate profits.

We need your financial support now more than ever to fight back against this subpoena and continue to stand up for people and the environment with all the work we do. Donate today!

Rodrigo Estrada Patiño

By Rodrigo Estrada Patiño

Rodrigo works in the Communications Department at Greenpeace USA. He focuses on the organization's work on forests. He has covered climate change, energy - specially oil - and toxic chemicals in the past. Rodrigo has been quoted in a wide range of national and international articles by CNN, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vice, Reforma, La Nación, and many more.

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