Corporations Step Up For Climate, As Exxon is Exposed

In the months leading up to the Paris Climate Summit – which began yesterday – the world’s multinational corporations called for a stong international agreement, racheted up their own emission reduction targets and 36 committed to reaching 100% renewable energy.

Around 2,000 companies submitted climate pledges to the United Nations.

Today, over 100 companies placed an ad in the Wall St. Journal, that starts with: "Business Backs Low Carbon USA." Logos of all the companies are included: Coca-Cola, Unilever, Volvo, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, and on and on. 

Here’s the ad:

Climate Change Wall St Journal Ad 

And in an open letter, 78 CEOs from 150 countries – such as Microsoft, Nestle, Pepsi, Tata, Toshiba and Dow Chemical  – are calling for an international price on carbon and are promising to take a bigger role in speaking out about climate change.

Saying that "aligned messaging" is important, they promise to "act as ambassadors for climate action." They will tell the public "the science debate is over: climate change is real and addressable" to raise awareness of the truth and combat the rampant forces bent on confusing people. 

Countering the Misinformation

We have long-written about the spiderweb of conservative groups working to confuse the public about the urgency and reality of climate change, such as the $100 million poured in by Koch Brothers-backed think-tanks and nonprofits.

Besides the Koch Brothers, Exxon is the biggest source of backing to stoke climate denial.

A review of 20 years of data confirms this, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The research also finds that mainstream media has been a reliable megaphone for the misinformation.

"Contrarian efforts have been so effective that they have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust," says Justin Farrell, the professor at Yale University who authored the study.

Farrell finds that 164 groups and more than 4,500 individuals have systematically produced information that’s resulted in the skeptical public we see today in the US. 

Corporate backing "created a united network within which contrarian messages could be strategically created and spread," he says.

Exxon Investigation

Besides the Koch Brothers, another big liar is Exxon, now under investigation by the NY Attorney General for covering up its knowledge about – and the risks of – climate change for decades. 

If you haven’t heard by now, Exxon has known about the dangers of climate change since the late 1970s, when its own scientists informed top management about it. But instead of warning the public and investors about it, the company spent millions of dollars to support think tanks pushing climate denial. 

In its expose of Exxon, InsideClimate News points to how right-on scientists were back then. Exxon’s senior scientists told top management that climate change was real, human-caused, and would raise global temperatures by 2-3C during the 21st century – exactly right! By the early 1980s, they had validated these findings with carbon measurements and by the early 1990s, they knew the Arctic poles were melting away.

"I think that Exxon Mobil stands potentially to lose billions of dollars in what I would imagine would be one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history," Secretary of State John Kerry told Rolling Stone.  

As the world’s second biggest polluter, Exxon is responsible for 3.1% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If the NY Attorney General finds that Exxon actively deceived the public and its investors, it could be held liable for its part in causing climate change.

You can be sure Exxon isn’t alone on this. In 1988, its trade association, American Petroleum Institute created the "Global Climate Science Communications Plan," meant to convince citizens and the media that the science is "uncertain." You can see the results today.   

For decades, Exxon ran weekly "advertorial" on the NY Times opinion page spinning and reinforcing the message, such as impeding the Kyoto Protocol by calling it "unrealistic" and "economically damaging." 

Democrats are calling for the US Department of Justice to investigate Exxon, as well as the rest of the fossil fuel industry.

Indeed, the Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed internal documents of many of the largest US fossil fuel companies and found they spread the same disinformation and fought action on climate for decades.   

For decades, shareholders have unsuccessfully tried to get them to invest in renewable energy, set targets to cut emissions, and more – 113 shareholder proposals in total, says InsideClimate News in a book about the subject.

Instead, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said they haven’t invested in renewable energy because "We choose not to lose money on purpose."

Lawsuits Move Forward

And communities in the Philippines just filed a lawsuit against the world’s 50 biggest polluters for the horror they experienced during Typhoon Haiyan – calling it a violation of their human rights. Defendents include Exxon, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Lafarge, Holcim and Taiheyo Cement Corporation.

6300 people died during the typhoon, 4 million people fled their homes and cleanup cost $10 billion, as Exxon made $32.6 billion profits, they point out. It’s time for these companies to pay for the damage caused by their products.

Perhaps it is time for these massive polluters to join their business colleagues and get on board for a planet humans and animals can live on in the future.  

Read details about Exxon’s coverup: 

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