At the behest of radical environmentalists, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee are pushing the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department to investigate ExxonMobil for its views on climate change. Exxon’s crime? During the 20 years the company has employed scientists to analyze the science and potential risks of climate change, some of those scientists concluded humans were causing potentially dangerous warming while others concluded humans were not causing a global warming crisis. Tolerating disagreement and making tough business decisions is not lying, but rather prudence. As Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James Taylor, my colleague, so eloquently put it:
Exxon’s top management received differing opinions on global warming. No matter which way they decided the issue, they would be agreeing with some of their consulting scientists and disagreeing with others. To say that Exxon management covered up or lied about global warming because some of their scientists agreed with them and others disagreed is like saying the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is covering up and lying about global warming because some of IPCC’s own scientists disagree with the assertion of IPCC’s top brass that humans are causing a global warming crisis.
At every turn, climate alarmists have been wrong and climate skeptics proven right. Exxon’s conclusion during the 1980s has subsequently been validated by real-world climate observations. Climate models say temperatures should climb right along with the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, yet emissions rose from the 1940s through the 1970s while temperatures fell. For the past two decades CO2 emissions have continued to rise, yet temperatures have been in a holding pattern for 18 years.
Models say we should see more intense hurricanes, yet for nearly a decade the U.S. has experienced far below the average number of hurricanes making landfall, and they have been no more powerful than previously experienced. Sea level rise has slowed, polar bear numbers have increased, the Antarctic ice sheet has set new records month over month, the Arctic is back to average ice levels for the decade, and crop production continues to set records year over year. Each of these points contradict the predictions made by IPCC and other climate alarmists.
As Taylor notes, this evidence means “Exxon made a judgment call that ‘skeptics’ had a better handle on climate science than alarmists, and Mother Nature has proven Exxon correct.”
Every year, environmental lobbying groups introduce shareholder resolutions to force Exxon’s management to embrace the Obama administration’s renewable energy crusade and cease producing and selling oil and gas products. The resolutions consistently fail, garnering less than 10 percent of the shareholders’ approval. Unable to get shareholders to voluntarily embrace their alarmist views, green lobbyists are now turning to their political shills in an attempt to punish Exxon for its recalcitrance, through the courts or regulatory agencies.
When asked by a shareholder in March of this year, shortly before another round of shareholder resolutions concerning climate change went down to defeat, why Exxon had not increased its investments in renewable energy, ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson responded, “We choose not to lose money on purpose.”
Climate change is natural and fighting it would be both costly and ultimately futile. Exxon hid nothing, it simply made a prudent business decision, and automobile drivers and the company’s shareholders are better off for it.
This item first appeared in the Heartland Institute’s Climate Change Weekly and the Heartlander Magazine.