NEW YORK (April 21, 2017)—Over 100 scientists from across New York State sent a letter urging New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to pursue his investigation into whether ExxonMobil misled investors and the public and climate change to “the fullest extent of the law.” The letter was delivered after a group of 11 Republican state attorneys general filed a brief to the U.S. District Court in Manhattan supporting a lawsuit by ExxonMobil to halt the probe by Attorneys General in New York and Massachusetts.
Schneiderman launched his investigation in 2015 shortly after reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times—in collaboration with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism—revealed that top executives at ExxonMobil were well informed about the climate risks resulting from the use of their products. Yet, they spent decades investing in major disinformation campaigns to sow doubt about those risks and undermine the urgency of policy action.
Since then, ExxonMobil has tried to block the investigation by filing a lawsuit against Schneiderman and subpoenaing scientists and climate advocates, including UCS. In their brief supporting ExxonMobil’s lawsuit, the Republican attorneys general cited an article from the National Review by Scott Pruitt, who at the time was attorney general for Oklahoma and is now head of the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”
“Research by government and university scientists, and ExxonMobil’s as well, has shown for decades that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, and that impacts will intensify until emissions are reduced” said Michael Oppenheimer, New York City resident and professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. “New Yorkers deserve to know what role ExxonMobil and other firms played in misleading investors, policymakers, and the public about the facts.”
The letter noted that New Yorkers face increasing climate change impacts, including damage to coastal communities from rising seas, extreme heat in cities during the summer, and more episodes of extreme precipitation.
“We’re at a point now when a lot of climate change impacts are locked in from decades of burning fossil fuels, and New Yorkers are already paying the price,” said Mark Cane, professor of earth and climate sciences at Columbia University and member of the National Academy of Sciences. “My colleagues and I have spent our careers working to understand and predict both natural and anthropogenic climate changes in the hopes that we can improve the lives of our communities here and around the world. Science is critical to improving our quality of life; and when it is ignored, or distorted, our communities suffer.”
The letter was delivered as students and professors at universities around the state held activities during the week preceding the much-anticipated March for Science set for April 22, highlighting the need for action on climate change.
“In the face of climate impacts, we can look to science for the way forward,” said David Borton, now-retired professor of mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Research on solar and wind shows us that we can accelerate the transition to clean energy with no threat to electricity systems.”