House Democrats are set to grill the executives of some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies — Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell — over allegations that the industry spread disinformation about the role fossil fuels play in global warming to derail action on climate change.
The hearings are the first time oil executives will be pressed to answer questions, under oath, about whether their companies misled the public about the reality of climate change by obscuring the scientific consensus: that the burning of fossil fuels is raising Earth’s temperature and sea levels with devastating consequences worldwide, including intensifying storms, worsening drought and deadlier wildfires.
“Today, the CEOs of the largest oil companies in the world face a stark choice,” Ro Khanna, the Democratic representative from California, who has been central to the effort to bring executives before a congressional committee, said in prepared remarks seen by The New York Times.
“You can either come clean, admit your past misrepresentations and ongoing inconsistencies, and stop supporting climate disinformation,” he said. “Or you can sit here in front of the American public and lie under oath.”
Industry executives are expected to defend their evolving statements regarding climate science, and stress that they support global action on climate, including the Paris accord — the agreement among nations to fight climate change and cut emissions of carbon dioxide — and that the oil and gas industry will play a critical role in solving the climate crisis.
“Inaction is not an option,” Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is expected to say, according to prepared remarks.
House Democrats compare the inquiry with the historic tobacco hearings of the 1990s, which brought into sharp relief how tobacco companies had lied about the health dangers of smoking, paving the way for tough nicotine regulations. Climate scientists are now as certain that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming as public health experts are sure that smoking tobacco causes cancer.
The evidence showing that fossil fuel companies distorted and downplayed the realities of climate change has been documented by academic researchers.