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.
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.