Exxon Makes Billion-Dollar Bet Climate Change is Real, Here Now and Going to Get Worse But Keeps Funding Deniers

Hard-core deniers assert that the current warming is just part of a natural cycle. Joe Bastardi, for instance, in a Climate Progress comment, absurdly predicted that “the earth will cool back … to levels we saw in the late 70s, and the [Arctic sea] ice will increase back to those levels in the N hemisphere.Not.The cynical, climate-destroyers at Exxon, however, are placing a massive bet that global warming is real and that the Arctic will keep warming — even as they keep funding deniers to obfuscate the science and block action (after they publicly stated they would stop such funding). Below is a guest post by Christopher Jones on this subject. Jones is a Ciriacy-Wantrup fellow at the University of California-Berkeley.

Exxon’s Climate Admission

by Christopher Jones

This just in: Exxon Mobil has made a multi-billion dollar acknowledgement that climate change is real and is happening now.


Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to admit this, though. Exxon would like you to believe that climate change is neither real nor urgent. That is why they have spent millions of dollars over the last several years funding climate skeptics and fighting legislation that would regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases. When you hear climate skeptics speak, there’s a good chance that Exxon money is in their pocket.

Actions, however, speak louder than words. And Exxon’s most recent action was a thunderclap. According to reports, Exxon has just signed an extensive deal with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, to develop promising offshore oil and gas deposits in the Arctic Ocean. The companies will begin by investing $3.2 billion to explore in the Kara Sea, with the potential of increasing the investment to $500 billion in the future. Exxon is so convinced of the potential of these sites that it is giving Rosneft ownership rights in several of its global properties to complete the deal.

Large deposits of gas and oil have been known to exist in the Arctic Ocean for decades. So why did they make this deal now? One key thing has changed: the arctic ice is melting rapidly. The Kara Sea has typically been covered by ice floes nine months of the year or more, making commercial development of its resources unprofitable. But for the last several years, the extent and duration of the arctic ice has been diminishing, a phenomenon the vast majority of scientists believe to be caused by climate change. Suddenly, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean is looking far more attractive. Exxon has realized that a warming planet offers some new opportunities for profit and is adjusting its strategic decisions accordingly.

Exxon is not the only big oil company whose actions show it believes climate change to be real. British Petroleum made a major play for developing the same resources several months ago, but the proposed deal was rejected by a coalition of BP’s other Russian business partners. Not only does big oil know climate change is happening, it is planning its future around it.

That does not mean Exxon is likely to publicize this knowledge. Despite issuing a tepid statement acknowledging anthropogenic climate change in 2007 and promising to cease funding anti-climate change groups in 2008, Exxon remains up to its old tricks. Freedom of Information Act requests have revealed a continued pattern of funding for climate skeptics as well as collaborations with the conservative Koch Industries to support legislation that removes any restrictions on carbon emissions.


We should no longer be distracted by these words. Exxon is a smart and savvy company, and even if its actions are reprehensible, they make sense in a political system that allows corporations to pay millions of dollars to avoid costly regulations. Blaming Exxon for these activities is like blaming a raccoon for going through your trash. They’re simply responding to available opportunities.

This is exactly why we should focus on actions, not words. This deal is a multi-billion dollar investment predicated on Exxon’s belief that the planet is warming. It is one of the most powerful admissions of the reality of climate change imaginable. Michele Bachmann and the other Republican presidential candidates cannot blame this on disconnected academic scientists or members of a liberal conspiracy. This is the embodiment of free market American capitalism saying climate change is real.

All this begs the question: If Exxon Mobil believes climate change is worth acting on now, isn’t it time for the rest of us to follow suit?

Christopher Jones is currently writing a book on the history of energy transitions.