Exxon Mobil executives in particular sought to undermine climate science even after the oil and gas giant publicly acknowledged the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change, according to previously unreported documents uncovered by The Wall Street Journal.
These new discoveries are based on previously unreported documents requested by the New York Attorney General as part of an investigation into the company announced in 2015. A large number to documents Which chronicles a decades-long disinformation campaign waged by Exxon, which has been cited in a growing number of state and municipal lawsuits against major oil companies.
Many of the newly released documents date back to the tenure of former CEO Rex Tillerson from 2006 to 2016, who oversaw a major shift in the company’s climate messaging. In 2006, Exxon publicly accepted that the climate crisis poses risks, and went on to support the Paris Agreement. However, behind closed doors, the company behaved differently, documents show.
In 2008, Exxon pledged to stop funding groups that deny climate change. But that same year, company leadership said it would support the company in mentoring a scientist to help the nation’s largest oil and gas lobbying group write a paper about “uncertainty” in measuring greenhouse gas emissions.
The company continued to be preoccupied with climate uncertainty. Before a meeting with the company’s scientists in 2012, one of the researchers expressed an interest in finding “‘sceptical’ arguments that we considered had not yet been refuted.” During a board meeting on climate science and policy that same year, Exxon board member Peter Brabeck-Leitmathe, a former Nestlé CEO, said, “There remains uncertainty in predicting future climate changes and impacts.” He also said that “money and effort “The effort on climate change is misplaced.”
The documents also show Exxon’s dissatisfaction with scientific warnings from higher authorities. After the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ top climate body, sounded the alarm about the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, Tillerson told a senior Exxon researcher that the IPCC’s warning “doesn’t make sense.” Credibility,” he said, and expressed his “dissatisfaction” with the media coverage of the warning of the worst climate scenarios.
Tillerson also wanted to reach out to scientists to “influence.” [the group]“In addition to gathering information,” the Exxon researcher told colleagues in a 2012 email about the findings.
Years later, Tillerson expressed doubts about the Paris Agreement, which the United Nations reached months before it was signed. The international agreement aims to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
After a climate science presentation to Exxon’s board of directors in April 2015, Tillerson called the 2 degree Celsius target “something magical,” according to a summary of the meeting.
“Who says 2.5 isn’t good enough?” He said, noting that achieving such goals would be “very expensive.”
In December of that year, Exxon publicly supported the Paris Agreement; During his Senate confirmation hearing to become Secretary of State in 2017 under President Trump, Tillerson maintained his support.
When the newspaper asked him about the new documents, Exxon CEO Darren Woods said: “When taken out of context, they look bad.”
“But having worked with some of these colleagues earlier in my career, I benefit from knowing that they are well-intentioned people,” he said. “None of these old emails and notes matter, though. All it does is that we’re building an entire business dedicated to reducing emissions — both our own and others’ emissions — and spending billions of dollars on solutions that have a real, sustainable impact.”
The Wall Street Journal said Tillerson declined to comment.
The documents could bolster legal efforts to hold oil companies accountable for their alleged attempts to sow doubt about climate science. More than two dozen US cities and states have sued major oil companies, claiming that the industry knew for decades about the dangers of burning coal, oil and gas but concealed that information.
In July, progressive senators led by Vermont’s Bernie Sanders also urged the Justice Department to prosecute major oil companies for allegedly violating US consumer protection laws, racketeering laws, and other legal standards.
“Web maven. Infuriatingly humble beer geek. Bacon fanatic. Typical creator. Music expert.”