Last month, investigative journalists uncovered documents showing that ExxonMobil knew about the link between carbon pollution and climate change as far back as the 1970, with its scientists making fairly accurate predictions about the future severity of global warming. Despite this internal knowledge, ExxonMobil spent decades funneling money into climate change denial groups in order to beat back efforts to take appropriate action.
About a decade ago, ExxonMobil claimed to stop funding climate denial groups. This happened around the same time as the rise of anonymous donors for many right-wing groups, including those engaged in climate denial.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter yesterday to the CEO of ExxonMobil to get some answers.
Here is the text of the letter:
October 28, 2015
Dear Mr. Tillerson,
We’ve been following ExxonMobil’s response to the recent investigations into your company by the Los Angeles Times,InsideClimate News, and others. You and other Exxon spokespeople acknowledge that Exxon has been conducting climate change research since the 1970s. A post on ExxonMobil’s website on October 21, 2015 quotes Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s vice president of public and government affairs, as saying ExxonMobil has worked to develop “climate science in partnership with governments and academic institutions, and did and continue[s] to do that work in an open and transparent way.”
Over the years, we have seen Exxon support climate denial and anti-climate policy advocacy through a variety of foundations and advocacy groups, such as the Heartland Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. In the mid-2000s, ExxonMobil pulled its funding from some of those organizations. Soon thereafter, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund began to increasingly support climate denial groups. According to research by Dr. Robert Brulle of Drexel University, the Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund operation does double duty: it is the “central component” and “predominant funder” of the denier apparatus, and at the same time it is the “black box that conceals the identity of contributors.”
The correlation between ExxonMobil’s decision not to fund some groups openly associated with climate change denial, and the increase in anonymous funding from a group that does is “suggestive of an effort”1 to simply reroute its support. That would not be consistent with Mr. Cohen’s claim that ExxonMobil continues to work in an “open and transparent way.” To assess the accuracy of Mr. Cohen’s statement, please detail whether ExxonMobil, the Exxon Foundation, or any of your company’s affiliates has contributed or matched employee donations to Donors Trust and Donors Capital since 2000, and if so, how much each has contributed.
Edward J. Markey