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Union of Concerned Scientists report says fossil fuel industry "knowingly worked to deceive public about realities & risks of climate change"

In July 2015, Union of Concerned Scientists released a report, "The Climate Deception Dossiers", claiming that the fossil fuel industry knew about the dangers of climate change, including harms to people and the environment, and took steps to deny public perception about it. The report compiles internal company and trade association documents that were released through public-records requests, litigation and other investigations. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the following principal companies named in the report to respond:

  • BP - response provided below

  • Chevron - declined to respond
  • ConocoPhillips - response provided below

  • ExxonMobil - response provided below

  • Peabody Energy - response provided below

  • Shell - did not respond

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All components of this story

Article
20 November 2015

USA: Democrats sign up to letter questioning oil, gas & coal companies on their climate change positions

Author: Timothy Cama, The Hill (USA)

"House Dems probe oil, coal companies on climate research", 19 Nov 2015

A group of House Democrats is investigating whether oil and coal companies have lied to the public regarding what they know about climate change.Following recent news reports that Exxon Mobil Corp. knew as early as the 1970s that oil and natural gas cause global warming but later emphasized doubt about the science, the lawmakers want to see if other companies have a similar history.Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are circulating a letter among their colleagues and asking them to sign it before they send it to the oil and coal companies...“We ask that you join our letter to the fossil fuel executives asking specific questions about their role, both past and present, in hiding and spreading disinformation to both the public and lawmakers alike concerning the science of climate change.” The letters will soon be sent to Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips Co., BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Peabody Energy Corp.

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Report
29 July 2015

Full report: "The Climate Deception Dossiers"

Author: Union of Concerned Scientists

…This report presents seven “deception dossiers” - collections containing some 85 internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. While many of these documents have been analyzed by others…these dossiers offer the most complete and up-to-date collection yet available. Each collection of internal documents reviewed here reveals a separate glimpse of a coordinated campaign underwritten by the world’s major fossil fuel companies and their allies to spread climate misinformation and block climate action. The campaign began decades ago and continues today… The…case studies show that…Fossil fuel companies have intentionally spread climate disinformation for decades… Fossil fuel company leaders knew that their products were harmful to people and the planet but still chose to actively deceive the public and deny this harm…[and that the] campaign of deception continues today…

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Article
28 July 2015

Commentary: "Internal documents show fossil fuel industry has been aware of climate change for decades"

Author: Elliott Negin, Union of Concerned Scientists, (USA)

"Internal documents show fossil fuel industry has been aware of climate change for decades", 8 July 2015

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse created a stir recently when he speculated that fossil fuel companies may be violating federal racketeering law by colluding to defraud the public about the threat posed by carbon pollution. Whitehouse likened their actions to those of the tobacco companies that conspired to manufacture doubt about the link between smoking and disease when they were all too aware of it...in 2007, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report revealed that ExxonMobil...had spent $16 million between 1998 and 2005 on a network of more than 40 front groups to try to discredit mainstream climate science...[T]he report reveals that ExxonMobil and five other top carbon polluters -- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, coal giant Peabody Energy and Royal Dutch Shell -- were fully aware of the reality of climate change but continued to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote contrarian arguments they knew to be wrong...The collected documents reveal the fossil fuel industry campaign has relied on a variety of deceptive practices, including creating phony grassroots groups, secretly funding purportedly independent scientists, and even forging letters from nonprofit advocacy groups to lobby members of Congress...[S]hareholder engagement, divestment campaigns, consumer boycotts and state court litigation all can play an important role in forcing them to curb their emissions, end their disinformation campaigns, and even pay the cost of climate damages, preparedness and mitigation…

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Company response
28 July 2015

ConocoPhillips’ response

Author: ConocoPhillips

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists claiming that ConocoPhillips and other companies engaged in decades of miscommunication" on the harmful impacts of climate change. We are disappointed that the Union of Concerned Scientists continues to misrepresent our participation in the complex, ongoing dialogue about climate change. Our position on this very important issue has been consistent and available to the public for several years in our Sustainable Development Report. http://www.conocophillips.com/sustainabledevelopment/environment/climate-change/Pages/global-climate-change.aspx...We have taken significant action that includes completing many projects that reduced the equivalent of more than one million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year since we introduced our first Climate Change Action Plan in 2008 (totaling 6.2 million metric tonnes of C02 equivalent by the end of 2014, keeping our emissions effectively flat at 26.9 million metric tonnes). In 2010, we became a co-sponsor of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change along with other major industrial companies and several US government agencies…

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Company response
28 July 2015

ExxonMobil’s response

Author: ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil takes the issue of climate change seriously and believes the risks to society from increasing greenhouse gas emissions warrant action.

We are taking action by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our operations, helping consumers reduce their emissions, supporting research into technology breakthroughs and participating in constructive dialogue on policy options with NGOs, industry and policy makers.

ExxonMobil engages and supports a variety of organizations on issues of direct relevance to the company and while we value engagement with these organizations, our contributions do not constitute an endorsement of policy positions they may take.

ExxonMobil has publicly supported action to address the risks of climate change for more than a decade, and includes support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most effective way for governments to put a price on carbon. To read more about ExxonMobil’s position on climate change, visit our website at www.exxonmobl.com/climate

Company response
28 July 2015

Peabody Energy’s response

Author: Peabody Energy

Peabody has a long record of advocating solutions to help keep energy costs low and achieve the world’s economic and environmental goals.  The company has invested $300 million in low-emissions, low-carbon projects and partnerships in the United States, China and Australia toward the ultimate goal of near zero emissions. 

Coal delivers the lowest cost electricity of any major fuel and is a major part of our energy future, set to surpass oil in coming years as the world’s largest energy source. If we are serious about achieving ambitious environmental goals, we should work together to advance greater deployment of clean coal technologies and accelerate commercialization of carbon capture and storage for broad energy and industrial applications. 

Peabody’s actions and activities in these areas are extensive:

  • Peabody was a lead developer for the Prairie State Energy Campus, one of the largest new high-efficiency low-emissions U.S. coal-fueled plants built in the past three decades. The plant achieves key emissions rates that are 75 percent lower than the U.S. fleet average. 
  • Peabody is the only non-Chinese equity partner in the signature GreenGen power plant and carbon research center in Tianjin, China, which ultimately would capture carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. 
  • In Australia, Peabody has committed $18 million to the Coal21 Fund to develop next-generation coal technologies and continues to support research and development of technologies as a founding member of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute in Canberra.
  • Peabody is a founding member of the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program and the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, which are advancing research toward advanced coal technologies and next generation carbon capture and storage.   
  • The company has reduced its environmental footprint through engineering and operational efficiencies across the global platform.  In 2014, total greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gas intensity continued to decrease for the fifth consecutive year.

Company non-response
28 July 2015

Shell did not respond

Company response
27 July 2015

BP’s response

Author: BP

Since 1997 BP’s position on climate change has been consistent and widely publicised, for example in the annual BP Sustainability Reports. A full archive of Reports going back to 1998 can be found at http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/sustainability/about-our-reporting/sustainability_report_downloads/report-library.html

Company non-response
27 July 2015

Chevron declined to respond