For a long time ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest international oil company, has been accused of spreading misinformation about climate change and the role that fossil fuels play in this. It is alleged that they knew about the effects of fossil fuels on the climate as long ago as 1977, before it became a public issue, as reported by Shannon Hall in Scientific American and cited in my book (Chapter 4 and page 76).
According to Hall, the company then spent decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoted climate misinformation. Hall likened this approach to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion and helped create a Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also lobbied to prevent the USA from signing the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 (to control greenhouse gases), also influencing other countries, such as China and India, not to sign as well. It has spent $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Hall’s article provides data that suggests that half of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere have been released since 1988. If ExxonMobil had been upfront about the issue in those early years, there could have been so much more progress on climate change than there has been. The company obviously had vested interests in opposing the scientific evidence but they now have a lot to answer for. Their campaign was so successful that many people still believe today that climate change is not happening, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Now, the EU is turning its attention to ExxonMobil’s presence in Europe, especially through the Groningen gas field, a giant natural gas field located in Groningen province in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. Discovered in 1959, it is the largest natural gas field in Europe and the tenth-largest in the world. Other oil and gas fields in the North Sea will also be included in the EU scrutiny.
Groningen Gas Field
There is an EU hearing on 21st March 2019, in response to a petition organised by Food and Water Watch, asking for a closer look at the information the company “wants to withhold from us now”. The hearing will be jointly held by the petitions committee and MEPs on the environment, public health and food safety committee will quiz a series of speakers on misinformation campaigns on climate change, which could include representatives of the company. Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch Europe, said, “ExxonMobil has misled the public on climate change for over 40 years. Now it’s time to correct the record and hold them accountable… The weak outcome of the climate negotiations in Poland show that we can’t wait – leaders everywhere must take climate denial and climate action seriously.”
Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, agreed that lobbying of EU institutions by companies that had been linked to climate denial should not be permitted.
She said: “Exxon has a shameful history of funding climate change denial – paying for fake science and dangerous lies that have prevented us from taking timely action on climate change and forcing the world into the current climate crisis.”
Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England
In recent years the company has softened its approach to climate change, possibly because it has been targeted by its shareholders to set Carbon targets by the next AGM.
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