Should ExxonMobil be held responsible for misleading the public about climate change? | The Tylt

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Should ExxonMobil be held responsible for misleading the public about climate change?
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A Harvard study went through 40 years of internal communication at ExxonMobil and compared it to the scientific studies researchers published. The authors of the study found that ExxonMobil was quietly researching the dangers of climate change and how it would affect its business at the same time it was loudly conducting a campaign to discredit climate change. 

To address worries that information was cherry-picked to prove a point against ExxonMobil, researchers looked all the data available. This means researchers examined all of the released ExxonMobil internal communication as well as everything ExxonMobil researchers published. Here's what they found:

Their content analysis examines how 187 company documents treated climate change from 1977 through 2014. Researchers found that of the documents that address the causes of climate change, 83 percent of its peer-reviewed scientific literature and 80 percent of its internal documents said it was real and man-made, while the opposite was true of the ads. The researchers analyzed ads published in the New York Times between 1989 and 2004. In those ads, 81 percent expressed doubt about the scientific consensus, tending to emphasize the “uncertainty’ and “knowledge gap,” while just 12 percent affirmed the science.

ExxonMobil is facing investigations in several states, as well as a class-action lawsuit from shareholders. ExxonMobil should be held responsible for their actions. Like the tobacco industry, the company willfully spread lies for its own profit. Like the tobacco industry, ExxonMobil should pay up. 

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ExxonMobil said it did nothing wrong. The company argues this campaign is part of a conspiracy against ExxonMobil conducted by the Rockefeller family. In fact, many of the investigations alleging ExxonMobil did something wrong were funded by descendants of John D. Rockefeller. 

The company is attacking the role of the Rockefeller family in encouraging, and in some cases bankrolling, the investigations and campaigns against it. Both journalism organizations that investigated the company were financed, at least in part, by Rockefeller philanthropies, though the organizations say that their donors have no control over what they write.

The key thing to note is that ExxonMobil didn't bury its research. ExxonMobil scientists have been published in over 50 peer-reviewed studies on climate science. ExxonMobil didn't keep any secrets. According to Michael Gerrard, the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia, people have to prove that ExxonMobil willfully hid information.

It’s not enough to show that Exxon had internal knowledge of climate change when external knowledge was widespread. The government would have to show that there were things that only Exxon knew and that were material to investors and that Exxon kept from investors. Such evidence might be there, but we don’t know yet.
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