Greenwash Watch: Exxon Mobile

In late May this year the Rockefeller family, whose great-grandfather founded Exxon Mobile’s predecessor Standard Oil Trust, filed shareholder resolutions to demand that Exxon take a deeper look at their role in climate change. Exxon, who lags behind other oil conglomerates like Shell and BP in low carbon alternative fuel research, was asked to do three things: research renewable energy sources, look at the impacts of climate change on poor countries, and reduce their emissions by a third.

On May 28th, Exxon rejected the proposal arguing that their only job is to deliver a product that is in high demand. Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive, said “We’re focused on safely and reliably meeting the growing energy demand while working to reduce our impact on the environment.” As well as, “A lot of climate change policy is still up for debate.”

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a conservative estimate and review of all climate change science, dispelled any serious climate science doubts with their Fourth Assessment in 2007. Climate change will cause profound and significant changes in our environment, society and economy in the next 100 years. The United States is the largest contributor of global greenhouse gas emission with only 5% of the population, but 20% of emissions. While ignoring their responsibility for those emissions Exxon is also ignoring just a few of the following consequences:

  • By 2020, between 75 and 250 million of people in Africa are expected be exposed to increased water stress due to changes in precipitation and drought. (IPCC)
  • Heavily-populated coastal regions in the megadeltas of South, East, and Southeast Asia are at very high risk of increased flooding due to both sea level rise and flooding inland rivers. (IPCC)
  • By 2020 in some African countries, agriculture yields could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production is expected to decrease in many African countries severely threatening food security and increasing overall malnutrition. (IPCC)

But what’s worse is the company is also going around advertising that they are hard at work trying to reduce carbon emissions. Using images of friendly scientists and technology along with quotes like, “In the US, if just 10% of cars were replaced with hybrids you’re talking about reducing CO2 emissions by the equivalent of taking more than five million cars off the road”

The company isn’t explicitly lying about this. They’ve reportedly spent $2 billion over the last five years on carbon reduction programs. But for a company that just beat its own record of $11.68 billion in profits in this past quarter alone, $2 billion in 5 years is chump change.