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Congressman Ted Lieu

Representing the 33rd District of California

Sacramento Bee: Congress should ask what Exxon knew about climate change

September 13, 2016
Opinion: Op-Eds

https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article101632717.html

The recovery has just begun in Louisiana as thousands attempt to pick up the pieces from the historic flooding.

It’s the latest, but certainly not the last example of extreme weather events that will increase in frequency and severity due to climate change.

When I watch the news and see homes and businesses wrecked, an angry thought comes to mind. The fossil fuel industry saw it all coming.

ExxonMobil, which became and remains one of the biggest companies in the world by burning fossil fuels, knew for decades that its product was causing climate change. Exxon’s own scientists warned their bosses that the consequences would be “catastrophic.”

Investigations by journalists at news organizations such as Inside Climate News show that Exxon knew its product was harming our planet and people. Instead of admitting the truth, the company spent decades and millions of dollars misleading the public about the threat climate change posed. Exxon secretly planned to take advantage of its internal global warming forecasts by increasing drilling operations in places where executives knew ice would be melting.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and I called on the Department of Justice to investigate Exxon. We, along with Reps Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., also called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the oil giant for failing to disclose the full extent of climate risks related to its business.

State attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts have launched their own investigations into what Exxon knew.

On Wednesday, Congress will convene a hearing related to these investigations. But is it not directed at Exxon. Republicans in charge of the House Science Committee set their sights on a different target. They’re going after the attorneys general and nonprofits who are seeking to protect the public.

I didn’t expect the House Science Committee to join the #ExxonKnew investigation on behalf of ExxonMobil. House Committees are public trusts, not arms of industry.

Congress has an obligation to look out for Americans who are facing the toll of climate change. That’s why I am so troubled that some of my colleagues are doing Exxon’s work.

Congress should not be defending Exxon, which has already spent decades and tens of millions of dollars deceiving the public about the realities of climate change. America deserves a Congress that is looking out for Americans first.

The news from the Gulf is tragic. What’s worse, every part of our country must brace to be the next victim of extreme weather caused by climate change.

In my Los Angeles County district, rising ocean levels threaten coastal communities. A recent report finds global sea levels will rise another 1 to 4 feet in the next 80 years, potentially devastating both coasts. California faces longer droughts, warmer temperatures, and more wildfires, all of which will worsen air quality and public health.

A recent report found that warmer temperatures in the Midwest will result in as much as 73 percent reductions in corn and soybean crops by the end of the century.

And the residents of the Northeast don’t need a report to remember the long-lasting effects of Superstorm Sandy.

As Louisiana residents clean up from flooding, as farmers worry about the future of their business, as pollution threatens the air we breathe in California, our government should not be rescuing Exxon. Our government needs to be rescuing us from what Exxon knew.