If you haven't hear by now, the New York attorney general has begun an investigation of ExxonMobil concerning the corporate claims on climate change. The basis for the investigation is to determine if the company lied to the public and its shareholders about climate change and the effect it might have on shareholder value. So, what does all of this mean, if anything?
The call has gone out recently for a RICO investigation of the fossil fuel industry, ala the tobacco RICO investigation. Some deniers have been stating it couldn't happen because there is no proof of wrong-doing. There are two problems with that statement. The first being the deniers don't get to define what is, and isn't, evidence. Their definition of 'evidence' is a signed confession and tape recordings of secret meetings where corporate executives use a movie-script to lay out their nefarious conspiracy to deceive the world for their own benefit. Anything less than that and it isn't evidence. Russell Cook is a notable proponent of this line of thinking. But, like I said, they don't get to define what constitutes evidence - the legal system does. The other problem the deniers are going to have is there doesn't have to be proof of wrong-doing in order to conduct an investigation. There only has to be enough evidence to issue subpoenas and begin deposing people. It's funny the way evidence and testimony starts appearing when that happens.
So, denier claims that there is no basis for an investigation clearly are obviously not valid (is anything the deniers say valid?) because the New York attorney general is conducting one.
So, back to the original question - what does this mean? I think it means the forces are building. When we look at the situation with the tobacco industry we see it took a long while for the lawsuits to begin and once they did, tobacco consistently won. And, yet, they continued and we all know how tobacco was eventually brought down and its deceitful practices fully exposed. Today, I believe we are witnessing the same kind of evolution. Things are building against the deniers and the fossil fuel industry. More and more, they sound shrill and panicky. Their claims are becoming increasingly bizarre and less rationale. Even people who support them are realizing how silly their statements are becoming.
Will ExxonMobil be charged? I don't know the answer to that. I believe, from what I've seen, there is a good case for it. But, that will be for the AG to determine. A bigger question is if the US AG will initiate a RICO investigation. That would be the coup de grace for the deniers. Once the evidence from that came to light, the denier lobby would dry up quickly. The FF people would be radioactive.
And, here's the thing. The evidence obtained by the New York AG could be what finally motivates such an investigation.
Hopefully, we're seeing the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel industry anti-science campaign and their dark money support of the denier lobby. Of course, the next question is, will it be in time?