"ExxonMobil issued its first public statement that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change in 2006, following years of denial. In public forums, the company argued that the risk of serious impact on the environment justified global action.
Yet behind closed doors, Exxon took a very different tack: Its executives strategized over how to diminish concerns about warming temperatures, and they sought to muddle scientific findings that might hurt its oil-and-gas business, according to internal Exxon documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with former executives.
Exxon’s public acceptance in 2006 of the risks posed by climate change was an early act of Rex Tillerson, an Exxon lifer who became CEO that year. Some viewed him as a moderating force who brought Exxon in line with the scientific consensus.
The documents reviewed by the Journal, which haven’t been previously reported, cast Tillerson’s decadelong tenure in a different light. They show that Tillerson, as well as some of Exxon’s board directors and other top executives, sought to cast doubt on the severity of climate change’s impacts. Exxon scientists supported research that questioned the findings of mainstream climate science, even after the company said it would stop funding think tanks and others that promoted climate-change denial.
Exxon is now a defendant in dozens of lawsuits around the U.S. that accuse it and other oil companies of deception over climate change and that aim to collect billions of dollars in damages. Prosecutors and attorneys involved in some of the cases are seeking some of the documents reviewed by the Journal, which were part of a previous investigation by New York’s attorney general but never made public."