The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity,

New Documents Show Exxon Executives Cast Doubt on Climate Science to Protect Profits

Wall Street Journal Report Provides More Evidence of Climate Deception that Will Be Used Against Exxon in Court

ExxonMobil executives — including former CEO Rex Tillerson — worked to undermine the scientific consensus that fossil fuels are warming the planet and that the impacts could be severe in order to protect the company’s oil and gas business, according to new documents reported today by The Wall Street Journal.

The new revelations add to a mountain of previously reported internal documents cited in a growing number of state and municipal lawsuits that show how Exxon has known and lied about climate change for decades and its public support for climate policies like the Paris Accord is not matched by company actions.

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:

“This damning new evidence of Exxon’s climate lies shows that for decades it has been official company policy for executives to undermine climate science, minimize the dangers of their oil and gas business, and protect company profits at all costs — with no concern for the catastrophic impact their actions would have on humanity.

“These documents provide additional evidence for dozens of states and municipalities that are seeking to hold Exxon accountable for its climate deception and are sure to be used against the company in court.

“As communities pay an ever-greater price for our worsening climate crisis, it’s more clear than ever that Exxon must be held accountable to pay for the harm it has caused.”

Among the new revelations in today’s Wall Street Journal report:

  • In 2015, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson called the 2 degree Celsius goal of the Paris Accord “something magical,” and said “Who is to say 2.5 is not good enough.” Several years earlier, Tillerson wanted the words “weather extremes and storms” deleted from a draft disclosure about carbon emissions.
  • After the company pledged to stop funding climate denier groups in 2008, Exxon leadership continued to support research on the “uncertainty” of measuring greenhouse gas emissions that same year, and in 2012 company scientists were still searching for “any skeptic arguments that we consider to be not yet disproven.”
  • A 1988 memo from Exxon’s then-head of corporate research, Frank Sprow, noted “If a worldwide consensus emerges that action is needed to mitigate against Greenhouse gas effects, substantial negative impacts on Exxon could occur.” In response, Sprow continued, the two “primary purposes” of Exxon’s climate research moving forward should be: “1. Protect the value of our resources (oil, gas, coal). 2. Preserve Exxon’s business options.” Sprow told the Journal that this memo became official company policy.

Background on Climate Accountability Lawsuits Against ExxonMobil

Since 2017, the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as 36 municipal governments in California, Colorado, Hawai`i, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products’ role in climate change. Exxon is named as a defendant in every case.

To date, six federal appeals courts and 15 federal district courts have unanimously ruled against the fossil fuel industry’s arguments to prevent these lawsuits from moving forward in state courts. In March, the U.S. Justice Department added its support for the communities. In April and May, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Big Oil petitions to consider the industry’s appeals of those lower court rulings.

The Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) helps cities and states across the country hold corporate polluters accountable for the massive impacts of climate change.

(919) 307-6637