The Exxon Mobil Corporation is being investigated by multiple state attorneys general (AGs) concerned that the company intentionally misled its shareholders regarding scientifically-established risks associated with climate change impacts – risks that not only endanger human health and the environment, but also threaten to devalue XOM shares. In the 1980s, when Exxon first began colluding with other fossil fuel interests to engage in an orchestrated, sustained deception and disinformation campaign designed to stymie regulatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions, the level of scientific uncertainty regarding the exact nature and severity of climate change impacts was greater than it is today. The modus operandi of the “global warming denial machine” has been to play up those inherent uncertainties while downplaying climate change impacts in order to dissuade policymakers and the public of the need to curtail our dependence on fossil fuels. After all: oil is money, and the corporate bottom line must be protected.
Currently, not only is the scientific underpinning of global climate disruption markedly more solid, the risks associated with ever-increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases now surpassing the 400 ppm mark have moved from the theoretical to the very real, and are being felt everywhere – including where ExxonMobil employees live, work, and conduct business. In this piece, we look at two rolling disasters: repeated, extreme flooding this year in Texas, where ExxonMobil is headquartered, and massive wildfires in California where the oil and gas giant also has major operations. Both are examples of climate change impacts long predicted by computer models and robust scientific research conducted globally; both exemplify the costly price tag that comes with failing to curtail carbon dioxide emissions. Tragically, this price tag includes loss of human life in addition to extensive property destruction, devastation of ecosystems and critical habitats, and more. All CEO Rex Tillerson needs to do to comprehend the dangers posed by our collective failure to cut carbon emissions and bring stability back to Earth’s climate system – a failure ExxonMobil has conspired to ensure – is to look outside his proverbial corporate window.