Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and climatologist, Dr. Michael E. Mann, provided cold, harsh facts to the House Oversight and Reform Committee in his opening testimony on Tuesday morning February 8, 2022. These chilling details, that were televised live on C-Span across the globe, continued for 3 hours and 30 minutes as Mann and his fellow witnesses (Ms.Tracey Lewis, policy counsel for Public Citizen’s climate program; Ms. Katie Tubb, senior policy analyst for energy and environmental issues, Heritage Foundation; and Mr. Mark van Baal, Founder, Follow This) answered questions posed by each Representative on the Committee.
At issue, Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Climate Pledges. Mann stunned viewers by sharing information that was difficult to process on an emotional level, considering how barbaric and inhumane these revelations are, and that the burning of fossil fuels cause more than 8 million premature deaths each year, that climate disasters have brutalized communities across the globe, and that 2.7 billion people are now food insecure, many of whom are children.
“ExxonMobil’s own scientists, in a secret 1982 report that was never released to the public, made remarkably accurate predictions of both the rise that we would see in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the planetary warming that would result given business as usual extraction and burning of fossil fuels,” Mann said in a brisk, even pace, seemingly aware of how quickly time flies and wanting to get everything on the record before his five minutes were up. “They even used the word ‘catastrophic’ to describe the potential impacts of that warming. But rather than come forward with what their own scientists had concluded, they engaged in a campaign of denial and delay which continues on today.”
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) was up at bat at the hearing’s three hour mark. Chevron is headquartered in DeSaulnier’s district in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California. Additionally, there are four oil refineries in DeSaulnier’s district. He’s been at war with big oil for years and thus has a unique perspective that enabled him to drill down a bit deeper and tap into what might prove to be a winning strategy in light of the well-documented, slick and deceptive, big oil greenwashing delay tactics.
In 2016, Desaulnier, along with his California colleague Congressman Ted Lieu, whose district includes another big West Coast fossil fuel footprint in Torrance, California, south of Los Angeles, requested information through a hearing “on what Exxon had done to obfuscate its role and its knowledge.” This was following an LA Times investigative series into California oil polluters that was conducted in partnership with Climate Action. DeSaulnier and Lieu are still waiting for much of the requested response from Exxon. Nearly 7 years, and still waiting. We only have 8 years left to cut carbon emissions 50% by 2030. There is absolutely no more time for waiting for oil giants to do what they should have done years ago.
Mann also outlined just how dire the climate crisis already is in his opening testimony. “We are now paying the extreme opportunity cost of that delay in the form of withering heat waves, more destructive tornado outbreaks, wildfires, and floods exacerbated by climate change. Whether it’s the apocalyptic wildfires that once again ravaged California and the west this summer, a heat dome over the Pacific Northwest that made parts of Canada feel like Phoenix on the 4th of July, or the devastating floods my state of Pennsylvania experienced as the remnants of climate change-fueled hurricane Ida dumped months’ worth of rainfall in a few hours, it is clear that dangerous climate change is upon us. These events are costing the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars a year and the toll in dollars and human lives will continue to increase in the absence of concerted action.”
DeSaulnier provided quoted assurances from the big oil companies on what they’re busy doing to transition to clean energy:
- BP says it will be a very different kind of energy company by 2030 “as we scale up investment in low carbon energy.”
- Chevron: “Leadership and innovation to advance a low carbon future.”
- Exxon: “Committed to helping form our energy systems in working to reduce emissions in the short term, while also working on advancing decarbonization solutions.”
DeSaulnier brought everyone back to reality by adding, “Contrast that with their financial reports from 2010-2018,” and then outlined the total capital expenditures of each oil giant to underscore that their actions don’t match their words:
- BP spent 2.3% on low carbon investments.
- Shell spent 1.3% on low carbon investments.
- Chevron spent .23%. Gasp! (DeSaulnier stared at the camera in disbelief. “A California company!”)
- Exxon spent .22% on low carbon investments.
He continued with additional evidence of successful big oil delay tactics that undermine America’s strength, stability and health. “According to the Low Carbon Disclosure Project, 24 of the largest publicly owned oil companies spent less than 1% of their budgets on low carbon investments between 2010-2017.”
Not only is this morally wrong, but it undermines America’s economic strength, Desaulnier emphasized. There’s a global shift to a green economy and clean energy. Major financial resources are moving in that direction. Fossil fuel’s delay in transitioning means that money is flowing into foreign countries. “So we are in a race to be globally competitive to transition.” China is installing 100,000 charging stations each month. The United States only has 42,000 charging stations total. China has more than 1.5 million total.
With internal anger and frustration churning away in most viewers by this point in DeSaulnier’s five minutes, and these alarming and disproportionate numbers underscoring how far behind the United States is in the transition curve, and how many jobs we’ve already lost because of our delay, DeSaulnier sought answers to several tough questions from two witnesses.
CONGRESSMAN MARK DESAULNIER: So, Dr. Mann, why should we trust them when they say they’re going to transition and work with us?
DR. MICHAEL E. MANN: They’re not going to do this voluntarily. What more evidence do we need for that? That’s why we need policy that makes it necessary for them to move in the direction that we know they have to go.
CONGRESSMAN MARK DESAULNIER: Ms. Lewis, shouldn’t they be accountable legally for the delay they’ve caused us in being competitive and also in meeting our targets in terms of reducing carbon?
MS. LEWIS: It’s very clear they can be held accountable. Congress has done it before. The tobacco settlements. …Mortgage Crisis. Done before. So, it can be done again.
With the answers to his burning questions now on the record, DeSaulnier closed his five minutes by referencing Dr. Mann’s earlier statement regarding big oil companies that are following the same business model that’s been used many times before. Shareholders, investors and corporate officers who leave with “tons of money” (tobacco producers, pharmaceuticals, gun manufacturers) while everyone else has to deal with the crises and immense suffering.
“In my area, the local editorial board once said, ‘We’re addicted to this product. We’re dealing with a drug dealer here. Where we’re trying to extract ourselves from a relationship. Thank you, Madam Chair, I yield back.’”
Viewers were left to bare the heavy truth that we can never trust the climate pledges of America’s oil giants and thus our futures are all in peril.
Today, news broke that Sandy Hook families reached a historic $73 million settlement agreement with gun manufacturer Remington.
We saw legal accountability with Purdue Pharma, as well. After years of extraordinary suicide rates, and millions of young people struggling with addiction to heavily marketed opioids, in 2018, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey became the first to sue Purdue Pharma executives for misleading physicians in the company’s twisted plot to boost their profit. A $4 billion settlement was reached in July of 2021 between Perdue Pharma, Massachusetts and 14 other states.
*The February 8, 2022 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Climate Pledges is of such great importance, with dozens of extraordinary moments, Gallant Gold Media will be highlighting many of the representatives’ statements and questions in the upcoming weeks and months.
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Michael E. Mann:
- Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University
- Joint Appointment with the Department of Geosciences
- Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center
- One of the Lead Authors of the 2021 IPCC Report
- Author of The New Climate War, along with 5 other books
- Author of 200+ total peer-reviewed/edited publications
- Undergrduate degree Physics and Applied Math University of Applied Math, University of California at Berkley
- M.S. degree in Physics, Yale University
- Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics, Yale University
Awards and Honors
2021 Leo Szilard Lectureship Award, American Physical Society
2020 Stephen Schneider Lecture, American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting
2020 World Sustainability Award, MDPI Sustainability Foundation
2020 Ten Most Influential Earth Scientists, Academic
2020 Elected to U.S. National Academy of Sciences
2020 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award, American Meteorological Society (AMS), for “The Tantrum that Saved the World”
2019 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
2018 Climate Communication Prize, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
2018 Elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America.
2018 Award for Public Engagement with Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
2018 Elected Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Center for Skeptical Inquiry.
2017 Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication, Climate One
2016 Elected Vice Chair, Topical Group on Physics of Climate (GPC), American Physical Society (APS)
2015 Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
2014 Named Highly Cited Researcher, Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)
2014 Friend of the Planet Award, National Center for Science Education
2013 National Conservation Achievement Award, National Wildlife Federation
2013 Bloomberg News list of 50 Most Influential People
2013 Elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society
2012 Hans Oeschger Medal, European Geosciences Union
2011 Elected Member-at-Large of Section W (Atmospheric & Hydrospheric Sciences), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
2008 Elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union
2008 Profiled in American Environmental Leaders From Colonial Times to the Present
2008 Website “RealClimate.org” (co-founded by M. Mann) chosen as one of top 15 “green” websites by Time Magazine (April 2008)
2007 Contributed (with other IPCC report authors) to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize
2006 American Geophysical Union Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing (for ‘Geophysical Research letters’)
2005 Website “RealClimate.org” (co-founded by M. Mann) chosen as one of top 25 “Science and Technology” websites by Scientific American
2005 John Russell Mather Paper award for 2005 by the Association of American Geographers [for article: Frauenfeld, O., Davis, R.E., and Mann, M.E., A Distinctly Interdecadal Signal of Pacific Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction, Journal of Climate 18, 1709-1718, 2005]
2002 Named by Scientific American as one of 50 leading visionaries in science and technology
2002 Outstanding Scientific Paper award for 2002 by NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) [for article: Delworth, T.L., Mann, M.E., Observed and Simulated Multidecadal Variability in the Northern Hemisphere, Climate Dynamics, 16, 661-676, 2000]
2002 Article [Mann et al, “Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries”, Nature, 392, 779-787, 1998] selected for ‘fast moving fronts’ by Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)
2002 Selected as one of 10 ‘Mead Honored Faculty’, University of Virginia
1998 Council of Graduate Schools’ Distinguished Dissertation Award, nominated
1997 Phillip M. Orville Prize for outstanding dissertation in the earth sciences, Yale University
1996 Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship (DOE)
1989 Josiah Willard Gibbs Prize for outstanding research and scholarship in Physics, Yale University