In January 2009, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, gave a speech in Washington announcing his company supported a carbon tax to help fight climate change. The speech was not surprising. In 2006, Kenneth Cohen, vice president of public affairs for Exxon Mobile, had written a letter to The Royal Society in London. In that letter, Mr. Cohen stated, “We recognize that the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere poses risks that may prove significant for society and ecosystems…. Human activities have contributed to these increased concentrations (of greenhouse gasses), mainly through the combustion of fossil fuels for energy use.”
Even though Exxon Scientists knew for decades of the risks posed by the burning of their products, Exxon supported well-financed propaganda campaigns to deny climate change. But they were beginning to see the handwriting on the wall; knowledgeable people knew we needed to act quickly to avert a disaster for future generations. The Trump administration may be temporarily whitewashing the issue, but the truth is well known.
The fossil fuel industry is getting worried. Decades earlier, the tobacco industry tried to deny that smoking caused cancer but was eventually forced to pay billions of dollars in settlements. A lawsuit involving five major oil companies was just filed in New York City claiming those companies have contributed to climate change costing the city billions of dollars in resiliency efforts. This is the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended). I hope it is not too late.