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What is #ExxonKnew?

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#ExxonKnew is an orchestrated campaign that seeks to delegitimize ExxonMobil and misinterpret our climate change position and research. For the past several years, activist organizations have sought to punish ExxonMobil for voicing its opinion on climate policy, even though ExxonMobil supports policies to limit climate change.

The #ExxonKnew campaign is the outgrowth of a plan devised by environmental activists and class action lawyers at a conference in La Jolla, California in 2012, as activists themselves confirmed in The New York Times. The Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) held this workshop to brainstorm how they could use litigation to gain access to internal energy industry documents on climate change, in hopes of creating scandal that would force a settlement similar in scope to the one reached with Big Tobacco. They put their strategy into a report called, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control.” 

The #ExxonKnew campaign is extremely well-funded and includes paid media coverage, legal support, activist groups, and academic research. Foundations providing financial support for the campaign include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, Rockefeller Philanthropy, Open Society Foundations, Energy Foundation, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

In 2015, environmental activists and class action lawyers succeeded in securing an investigation of ExxonMobil by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as originally envisioned in the La Jolla report. The investigation was widely founded on claims that scientists and researchers from ExxonMobil knew that man-made emissions caused global climate change in the 1970s and 1980s, but that the company kept those findings secret. Contrary to their claims, ExxonMobil's understanding of climate change has tracked the scientific consensus on climate change, and its research on the issue has been published in publicly available peer-reviewed journals.

While those involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign have tried to claim their effort is based on investigative reporting by InsideClimate News (ICN) and the Columbia School of Journalism (via the Los Angeles Times), those stories were bought and paid for by many of the organizations listed above.

ExxonMobil continues to take action through research into technological innovation and by participating in constructive dialogue on policy options. We have pioneered research in advanced carbon capture and storage, cogeneration, methane emissions reduction and algae-based biofuels, all with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ExxonMobil supports a revenue-neutral tax on carbon and we urged the United States to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement. These actions demonstrate our commitment to reducing the risks of climate change.