Exxon Knew

How Big Oil Tried to Capture the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Read time: 10 mins
IPCC synthesis report meeting GCC

A secretive fossil fuel lobby group undertook a decades-long campaign to undermine mainstream climate science while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and influence major scientific reports, a tranche of newly released documents shows.

The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) was a fossil-fuel backed lobby group active in the mid-90s and early 2000s. A collection of briefings, meeting minutes, notes, and correspondence from the group, released by the Climate Investigations Centre in collaboration with DeSmog and Climate Liability News, show how the GCC tried to manipulate the UN’s official scientific advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Study Finds Exxon Misled the Public by Withholding Climate Knowledge

Read time: 4 mins
Exxon sign

Coal, oil and gas are tremendous resources: solar energy absorbed by plants and super-concentrated over millions of years. They’re potent fuels and provide ingredients for valuable products. But the oil boom, spurred by improved drilling technology, came at the wrong time. Profits were (and still are) the priority — rather than finding the best, most efficient uses for finite resources.

In North America, governments and corporations facilitated infrastructure to get people to use oil and gas as if they were limitless. Companies like Ford built cars bigger than necessary, and although early models ran on ethanol, the oil boom made petroleum the fuel of choice. Public transit systems were removed and governments used tax revenues to accommodate private automobiles rather than buses and trains.

The oil industry fulfilled many of its promises and became the main driver of western economies. It increased mobility and led to job and profit growth in vehicle manufacturing, oil and gas, tourism and fast food, among others. Petroleum-derived plastics made life more convenient.

The industry boom and the car culture it fuelled had negative consequences, though — including injuries and death, rapid resource exploitation, pollution and climate change. Plastics are choking oceans and land.

Are these unintended consequences? When did people learn burning large quantities of fossil fuels might be doing more harm than good? Evidence suggests scientists, governments and industry knew all along there would be a steep price to pay for our excesses.

Exxon, Peabody Coal Lobby for Bill Poised to Load EPA Science Board With Polluters

Read time: 4 mins
A scientist looks through a microscope

A bill which would prohibit scientists who had received research grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from serving on its Science Advisory Board (SAB) and potentially welcome more industry and corporate representatives to the board has passed through the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The SAB is an independent council charged with reviewing the science EPA uses as the foundation for regulations, in addition to providing other scientific advice and expertise. Congressional Republicans have been taking aim at changing how SAB members are chosen for several years. The bill was first introduced in 2014, re-introduced again in 2015, and has taken its latest form as H.R.1431

Critics of the bill say it will give a seat at the table to corporate executives who would benefit from weakening EPA regulations and shut the door to many qualified researchers. And it has powerful corporations pushing it, including coal giant Peabody Energy, ExxonMobil, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmog.

Lamar Smith

Lamar S. Smith

Credentials

  • Lamar Smith earned a a bachelor's degree in 1969 at Yale University and a law degree in 1975 at Southern Methodist University School of Law. [1]

Background

Read time: 49 mins

Republican Attorneys General Met Secretly with Exxon Lobbyists to Stop Climate Change Investigations

Read time: 5 mins
Protestor holding a sign stating Exxon denied climate science despite knowing otherwise.

According to a new report by the watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ExxonMobil sent teams of lobbyists to meet with industry-friendly Republican state attorneys general to help stave off a flurry of investigations about the company’s role in obscuring the link between carbon dioxide and climate change, a cover-up which extends as far back as the 1970’s.

The news comes the same week that the environmental advocacy group Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil for placing Massachusetts communities into harm's way, as a result of this cover-up and its climate change implications.

Exxon, Koch Ties May Help Explain Rep. Lamar Smith's Probing Request of "Exxon Knew" Environmental Groups

Read time: 5 mins

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith recently caused a ruckus by targeting environmental groups that are pushing for ExxonMobil to be held accountable for funding climate change denial despite their deep internal corporate knowledge of the role of fossil fuel pollution in global warming. Rep. Smith penned letters to several environmental groups and foundations requesting all of their communications about the ongoing “Exxon Knew” campaign.

Some of the groups and foundations have issued public responses refusing to provide the materials to Smith, who heads up the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Not yet reported, though, are the extensive ties — monetary and personnel — binding Smith to the crucial corporate funders of climate denial: ExxonMobil and Koch Industries

According to Oil Change International's Dirty Energy Money database, Smith has taken $22,270 in campaign contributions from Exxon since 1998. And OpenSecrets.org data reveals that $19,500 of the Exxon money has flowed to Smith's campaign since 2008 alone. 

OpenSecrets.org data reviewed by DeSmog also shows that Smith has taken $52,000 in campaign contributions from Koch Industries — another key node of the climate denial machine — since 2006.

All told, Lamar Smith — a climate change denier — has received $675,597 from the oil and gas industry since 1998.

Oil and Gas Activities Behind Texas Earthquakes Since 1925, Scientists Conclude

Read time: 7 mins

If you've felt an earthquake in Texas at any point over the last four decades, odds are that quake wasn't naturally occurring, but was caused by oil and gas industry activities, according to a newly published scientific report.

Just 13 percent of Texas earthquakes larger than magnitude 3 since 1975 were the result of natural causes alone, according to scientists from the University of Texas who published their peer-reviewed paper in the journal Seismological Research Letters.

In recent years, fracking wastewater injection wells have become the primary cause of tremblors in the state, the report adds.

Exxon's Lawyer in Climate Science Probe Has History Helping Big Tobacco and NFL Defend Against Health Claims

Read time: 11 mins

Ted Wells, an attorney hired by ExxonMobil to represent the company against accusations it lied about the climate risks of burning fossil fuels, also represented the tobacco industry in the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1999 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, DeSmog has found. Wells also defended the National Football League (NFL) in the infamous “Deflategate” matter as well as in litigation over the far more serious issue of concussions. 

Wells has represented ExxonMobil since at least December 2015, following New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's announcement that his office would probe Exxon's role in funding climate change denial despite its long-held understanding and pioneering research into climate change.

Wells' name also appears on an April 13 legal filing Exxon submitted in response to a subpoena issued by the Virgin Islands' AG Office, a sign the “private empire” has retained him for the wider probe being carried out by a group pf Attorneys General.

State Investigations Into What Exxon Knew Double, and Exxon Gets Defensive

Read time: 6 mins

On Tuesday, the number of state attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for potential climate denial fraud doubled. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker announced that they have opened up their own probes of what Exxon knew about climate change while it was denying the realities of climate science publicly and to shareholders

They follow the lead of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who in November 
first issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil for hundreds of thousands of pages of documents about the company's climate science research and internal communications spanning over four decades — and of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who announced that state's investigation in January.

News of these investigations in Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands came as attorneys general and their representatives gathered in Manhattan for a daylong conference on climate change. During the proceedings, the top legal authorities from 15 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia announced a coalition to collaborate on legal efforts to “deal with climate change,” as Schneiderman put it.

Shell and Chevron: Two Oil Giants With Two Very Different Approaches to Climate Change

Read time: 5 mins

This week saw two oil companies take two very different approaches to climate change. One has recognised the impact that global efforts to cut emissions will have on its bottom line while the other denies climate action will have any adverse impact.

I’m talking about Shell and Chevron. Both behemoths in the energy world but with drastically opposite views sitting on either side of the Atlantic.

This week Shell released its latest annual report for the year up to December 2015. Reading through it, it quickly becomes clear that the company has started joining the dots on climate change following the Paris climate agreement and mounting shareholder pressure.

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