Climate Action

Oil and Gas Industries Fueled Climate Deception for Nearly 3 Decades

This week, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a Climate Deception Dossier, revealing a collection of internal evidence showing the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations actively worked to manipulate the public’s understanding of climate change. Exxon, before it merged to become the oil giant ExxonMobil, received its first reports on carbon emission and climate change in 1981— 7 years before climate change was brought to the public eye. An email from Leonard S. Bernstein, a retired chemical engineer from Exxon and Mobil, detailed the history behind the oil giant and the profile of climate change. Alongside the UCS’s dossier, Bernstein’s email reveals the extent to which the fossil fuel industry denied responsibility to educate the public on the consequences of fossil fuel usage, and chose instead to sow public doubt. 330 Pages of Evidence and One Email The 85 internal memos compiled by the UCS don’t just show how fossil fuel companies intentionally ignored climate science. They show a coordinated campaign to directly and indirectly deceive public opinion. ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, BP, Shell, and Peabody Energy are among the numerous big-name conspirators behind the scheme. These companies disregarded the warnings of their own scientists and conducted multimillion dollar campaigns to stifle efforts to address global warning. Their tactics included everything from phony grassroots organizations to forged lobbying letters from nonprofits. The UCS’s ever-increasing reserve of documents include a report on 40 ExxonMobil-funded climate contrarians and think tanks, several of whom are still quoted by deniers in congress. One scientist received over $1.2 million dollars to fund a study that concluded climate change was the result of solar activity, not human interference. Leonard Bernstein, the same scientist behind the Exxon email, also acted as a scientific lead for the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying coalition of fossil fuel companies and trade groups that worked from 1995 until 2002. He described his tenure in GCC as a period of “unsuccessfully trying to get them to recognize scientific reality.” One primer from the scientists at the GCC disclosed that “contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change.” The primer, which was written in 1995, was never published. Paying the Price On May 29th, Rhode Island Sen’ Sheldon Whitehouse expressed his view that the fossil fuel industry was engaging in the huge scale racketeering activity of “funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution”. Whether or not the fossil fuel industry’s publicity campaign is a racketeering scheme is yet to be decided, but there is one thing that we know for sure: These companies are guilty of deceiving and misleading the public to further corporate profits, at the cost of global environmental health, and must be held accountable. Julie Hu, Intern