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November 19, 2015
Scientists Join Call for Exxon Investigation
    by Robert Kropp

In the wake of reports detailing the oil giant's duplicity on climate change, the Union of Concerned Scientists join legislators and others in urging a Department of Justice investigation.


Two reports published last month—one by the Los Angeles Times, and the other by InsideClimate News—reveal that since 1977, scientists employed by ExxonMobil had successfully developed climate change models that accurately predicted the crisis conditions that are already underway. At the same time, “ExxonMobil funded the promotion of public confusion about climate science by means that future employees and executives of the corporation are likely to look back on with regret,” Steve Coll wrote in his book Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.

Shortly after the reports were published, two Democrats in the House of Representatives—Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier, both from California—called for a Department of Justice investigation into Exxon's allegedly duplicitous behavior. In a
letter, Congressman Lieu wrote, “If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon's actions were immoral. We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil's actions were also illegal.”

Since last month, calls for an investigation have only grown. Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, has launched an investigation into whether Exxon misled both the public and its investors. Four US Senators
wroteto Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, requesting information as to whether the company provided anonymous funding to climate denial groups. All three Democratic candidates for President support an investigation. And a petition calling for an investigation, signed by 350,000 citizens, was delivered this week to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Climate deniers in the US Congress may deny that scientists can speak with authority on matters of science, but no less an authority than the
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has weighed in with its support for an investigation of Exxon. “Exxon...learned that fossil fuel emissions could drive potentially catastrophic climate impacts,” Peter Frumhoff of UCS wrote. “Exxon executives heard advice from their own scientists to take a leadership role in addressing it.”

“They firmly rejected this advice,” Frumhoff continued. “Instead, Exxon...financed and engaged in a decades-long industry campaign of doubt-mongering about the scientific evidence of climate change in order to avoid regulation of their products.”

And in expressing support for expanding the investigation into Exxon's activities, Ken Kimmell, president of UCS, wrote, “The New York state AG investigation threatens to expose many new details about Exxon Mobil’s apparent efforts to mislead the public about climate science and climate policy and may expand to other companies as well...it seems increasingly likely that this investigation, at a minimum, will finally force fossil fuel companies to halt further deceptive acts while this gets sorted out.”

“It may encourage some companies to really put their muscle behind needed reforms, such as carbon pricing,” Kimmell continued.

The revelations about Exxon's behavior come as the world turns its attention to the upcoming climate conference in Paris. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this conference will bring about significant agreements when previous iterations could not. There is a fast-growing global consensus that the Paris climate conference might represent a last chance for meaningful action. An unwavering spotlight trained on Exxon's deceptions can only help.

 

 
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