US House Hearing on Climate Disinformation a Step Towards Fossil Fuel Industry Accountability

Statement by Kathy Mulvey, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Oct 28, 2021

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (October 28, 2021)—Top executives from major fossil fuel companies and industry groups faced Congress for the first time today to answer for their role in spreading climate disinformation. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing was a major milestone in the growing movement to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the harm caused by its deceptive tactics, and marks the opening of a long overdue Congressional investigation into the industry’s misconduct. During the hearing, committee members cited research by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), including evidence in the report “Smoke, Mirrors, & Hot Air” of how ExxonMobil borrowed from the tobacco industry’s disinformation playbook.

Below is a statement by Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director in the Climate and Energy program at UCS.

“Today top executives of ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell were forced to acknowledge before Congress, under oath, that climate change is real, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and poses an existential threat. Unfortunately, their actions don’t match their words. While they try to persuade Congress and the public that they’re now doing everything in their power to address the climate crisis, that’s simply not true. The executives were asked to pledge to stop funding climate disinformation and lobbying—directly and through trade associations—against climate and energy policies they claim to support. They each refused. Even more egregiously, they doubled down on the alleged need for continued production and use of fossil fuels when the science is clear that meeting our climate goals requires a sharp turn away from polluting fuels to clean energy, and numerous analyses show that we can make that transition with bold policies.

“Just in the past few months, people across the US have faced extreme heat, devastating wildfires, and deadly storms—climate impacts that hit hardest in low-income communities and communities of color. That’s why Indigenous water protectors and youth activists are putting their lives on the line to demand climate action while fossil fuel interests continue to lobby against it.

“This climate emergency was not inevitable. The fossil fuel industry’s decades of disinformation and delay made it so. Today, Congress demanded answers from fossil fuel industry leaders about their long and concerted campaign to sow doubt about climate science, and delay and block climate action.

“This hearing put fossil fuel industry executives on record about what their companies and industry groups knew about climate change, and when—and what they did despite what they knew. But there are a lot of outstanding questions, and the public deserves answers. Congress should pursue this investigation vigorously, because evidence of fossil fuel industry disinformation is highly relevant to the policies being considered for driving swift and deep reductions in global warming emissions, accelerating the energy transition and strengthening corporate disclosure of climate financial risks and political activity. Evidence brought to light in today’s hearing and the ongoing investigation could also inform climate accountability lawsuits brought by dozens of US states, cities, and counties, and growing shareholder pressure on the leadership of these corporations.”