By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service
WASHINGTON – The first-ever congressional hearing on Big Oil’s history of climate denial is Wednesday.
Led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the hearing aims to show that more than 40 years ago, oil industry research proved that burning fossil fuels harms the environment, but that oil companies, including ExxonMobil, misled the public about those results to keep profits up.
And according to Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, the oil companies maintained a multi-million dollar publicity campaign to undermine the science.
“They know they’re making a product that’s going to cause big problems,” Wiles points out. “They do it anyway. They lie about it – and then, in the end, with climate, they want the public to pay for all of the damages, and all of the adaptation and preparedness that we’re going to need to do for climate change.”
ExxonMobil says it hasn’t done anything wrong and its officials dismiss reports of its climate denial as the work of anti-fossil fuel activists.
The hearing starts the day after ExxonMobil went on trial in New York for securities fraud, and for minimizing global warming risks to investors.
And it comes two days after a new report, “America Misled,” offers new details comparing oil industry deception about climate change to the tobacco industry’s cover-up of the health effects of smoking.
Wiles says another issue likely to come up at the hearing is how people of color and low-income communities are hit hardest by global warming.
“It’s people that have suffered the most from the damages of any of the climate-juiced hurricanes,” he asserts. “It’s always the poor communities that are left behind, and this isn’t going to be any different.
“So, it’s a really serious problem that we’re going to have to address.”
Wiles says the hearing aims to hold Big Oil accountable, and that the industry’s rejection of climate science prevented governments from taking action to avoid what is now widely considered a worldwide crisis.