Fossil Fuel Disinformation Case Study: Exxon

When browsing Instagram for your general energy providors, as one does, you see this, and you're impressed! Exxon must be really committed to helping protect the planet from climate change to include it in their account bio, especially when so much of climate change is caused by their exact industry. So then you wonder...have they always been so self-aware?

Unfortunately, the answer is a pretty resounding yes; they just haven't always been the good guys in that story.

In 2015, the non-profit, non-partisan news organization InsideClimate News spent eight months investigating Exxon's “engagement with the emerging science of climate change.” They used  interviews with former Exxon employees, scientists, and federal officials, hundreds of pages of internal Exxon documents, as well as thousands of documents from archives including those held at the University of Texas-Austin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to get a complete picture of what Exxon knew and when, and how that translated to what the company reported to the rest of the world.

The full reports can be found here, but essentially it was as follows:


Since then, many more news organizations have uncovered even more disturbing documents connecting Exxon (and eventually ExxonMobil) to a number of misinformation campaigns that directly contradicted everything their own research programs had uncovered decades prior. Today there are even a number of #ExxonKnew campaigns with the sole goal of seeing ExxonMobil pay for the damage they have had by intentionally misleading the public away from climate change solutions. Today, ExxonMobil does actually contribute to new and innovative technologies designed to help reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change, but their business model still requires them to drive oil and gas production as much as possible, and we cannot get the lost 30 years of progress and increased warming back. 

Similar discoveries to this one have been made about other fossil fuel companies as well; for more information, The Union of Concerned Scientists produced "The Climate Dossiers: Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation" which goes deeper into a wider variety of instances of disinformation.
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