Today, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) delivered a letter signed by more than 50 Connecticut scientists to Connecticut Attorney General William Tong expressing support for the state’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil. The suit alleges the company misled state consumers about its products’ climate change impacts.
As far back as the 1960s, ExxonMobil knew that the climate consequences of fossil fuel pollution were potentially catastrophic. Equipped with information critical to protect public health and safety, the corporation chose neither to inform the public nor to take actions that would address the problem. Instead, internal fossil fuel industry memos show how companies, including ExxonMobil, chose to spend millions of dollars leading a coordinated campaign of climate disinformation designed to keep the public hooked on oil and gas products.
“Decades of customer deception by ExxonMobil have locked in worsening sea level rise and more days of extreme heat for years to come, with Connecticut residents expected to pick up the tab for the resulting damages,” said Dr. Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation professor emeritus of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University. “My fellow residents face not only the damage imposed over the past five decades of fossil fuel pollution, but also the future impacts that have already been baked into the climate system. Even if we were to end fossil fuel use today, ExxonMobil’s past emissions have committed us to as yet unseen warming, flooding, and extreme weather events.
“What frustrates me most is that ExxonMobil actively deceived people about real climate danger and encouraged them to mistrust climate scientists, even though it knew that we were right. ExxonMobil’s own scientists agreed with mainstream external scientists, and still the company chose to hide its knowledge from the public and attack climate experts.”
Dr. Yohe participated in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process since the early 1990s, including as a senior member in 2007 when the panel received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also vice co-chair of the Third National Climate Assessment under the Obama administration and is currently a member of the UCS Science Network.
“In addition to deceiving the public about its role in climate change, ExxonMobil has also failed to adapt its business model to the reality of a dwindling carbon budget,” said Roger Stephenson, Northeast regional advocacy director for the Climate & Energy Program at UCS. “ExxonMobil has failed to adequately communicate climate risks to shareholders, whose investments are in danger of rapid devaluation as the company faces legal threats, infrastructural damages from extreme weather, and stranded assets as the public demands a transition away from fossil fuels. It will need to reckon with that as it faces an open revolt by investors at its annual shareholders’ meeting on May 26. Shareholders are demanding that ExxonMobil come clean about the legal and financial risks it faces—and some major institutional investors are so fed up with ExxonMobil’s foot-dragging that they are seeking to replace several members of the company’s board. We hope Attorney General Tong’s lawsuit will create more company accountability to Connecticut residents and investors.”
Dr. Yohe and Stephenson are available to speak about climate impacts in Connecticut and issues of scientific integrity at ExxonMobil. UCS Accountability Campaign Director Kathy Mulvey is also available to speak about how science, the law, and shareholders are holding ExxonMobil and other major fossil fuel companies accountable for their contributions to climate change.
- A June 2019 poll found that 57 percent of people in Connecticut believe fossil fuel companies are responsible and should pay for global warming damages.
- For more information on Connecticut’s climate impacts, see the UCS “Killer Heat” analysis, which found that by midcentury the state could experience the equivalent of about two weeks per year on average when the heat index—or “feels like” temperature—exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the equivalent of a month or more by the century’s end. Historically, Connecticut has not averaged any days with a heat index above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- See the 2018 UCS report “Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate,” which found 4,486 Connecticut homes that house more than 10,000 people and are worth more than $3.4 billion will likely be effectively inundated by climate change-driven sea level rise by 2045. That would mean a $52 million loss in local property taxes, according to the report.