Catalyst Summer 2015

[FIRST PRINCIPLES]

Decades of Climate Deception

Power plant

Photo: Olivier Lantzendorffer

UCS President Ken Kimmell

For many years, scientists and public health experts warned of smoking’s link to lung cancer and heart disease. But only after internal documents surfaced in the course of litigation did Americans come to understand how the tobacco industry had deceived them about the dangers of cigarettes. Among the damning documents leaked to the press was a now-infamous 1969 memo from the Brown and Williamson tobacco company. "Doubt is our product," that memo famously boasted, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public.”

As highlighted in this issue of Catalyst, UCS’s latest report, The Climate Deception Dossiers, presents a collection of internal documents (some disclosed to the public as recently as this year) that leave little doubt that the world’s largest fossil fuel companies—including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Peabody Energy—set out decades ago to knowingly deceive the U.S. public about the scientific evidence of global warming. And that the campaign of deception continues to this day.

These internal documents speak for themselves. Our report presents seven “deception dossiers” containing 85 separate internal company and trade association documents that have been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act requests. UCS is making the complete collection available online.

I urge you to read them and draw your own conclusions. I believe they offer clear evidence that these companies knew the truth about climate science but nonetheless developed, participated in, or funded campaigns to deliberately sow confusion and block policies designed to reduce the heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming. It is high time to hold these fossil fuel companies accountable for their deceptive actions to forestall climate solutions and for their share of the damages we are already confronting as a result.

Ken Kimmell is president of UCS.