Here's a reflection by 350 Maine's Lee Chisholm about Investigate Exxon:
Because of its connection to global warming and the world climate crisis, Exxon Mobil should be investigated for civil and criminal wrongdoing.
Clearly, a crisis is upon us. This February was the warmest month the world has ever measured (using a 1951-1980 baseline of average monthly temperatures). The previous “warmest month ever” was January. The year 2016 is thus on track to become the warmest year ever measured, breaking the record of 2015, which replaced the record of 2014. Indeed, 15 of the 16 warmest years ever recorded have occurred in the 21st century, and the last 39 consecutive years (going back to 1977) have all been hotter than the 20th century annual average.
One need look no further than Maine’s front yard for a perspective on one of the impacts from this change. The Gulf of Maine has been warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans. The population of codfish has crashed. The northern shrimp fishery has disappeared. Lobsters have been migrating north. Clams and clam flats are under stress from ocean acidification and invasive species.
On a global scale, ice everywhere is melting. Dr. James Hansen, who in his 1988 testimony before Congress became the first climate scientist to sound an alarm about the unfolding impacts of global warming, is predicting that accelerating melting of the ice and consequent rising of the sea could inundate coastal cities and retard or shut down the great circulatory currents of the ocean not centuries from now, but decades—that is, within the lifetimes of our children.
What has Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest fossil fuel company, got to do with all this? Award-winning investigations by journalists from Inside Climate News and The Los Angeles Times have uncovered substantial evidence that Exxon’s own scientists began informing it 11 years before Hansen’s 1988 Congressional testimony that fossil fuel-related climate change was a real and serious planetary threat; that instead of sharing that knowledge with the public and beginning to transform itself into a sustainable energy company, it kept the knowledge to itself (and indeed made special use of it by raising the height of its offshore drilling platforms and strengthening the infrastructure threatened by melting permafrost); and that, once the cat was out of the bag by virtue of Jim Hansen’s 1988 testimony, Exxon privately funded a long-running campaign to cast doubt upon the reliability of climate science and prevent our politicians from taking affirmative action.
If it were terrorists laying the groundwork for deadly storms or floods or famines or mass migrations or events of mass extinction, we’d be all over it. If catastrophic events have been furthered not by terrorists, but by the intentional deceptions of men in suits, should our response be meek?
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, to her credit, has just become part of an historic coalition of state Attorneys General vowing to fight climate change and poised, one can hope, to join the Attorneys General of New York and California in formally investigating Exxon and calling to account those who undertook intentional deception. A petition urging Ms. Mills to take this important step is being circulated online by 350 Maine. If you, too, feel outrage at Exxon’s behavior, sign it.