When one activist shouted for a 'long-term solution to global warming', applause rippled through the room.
ExxonMobil and other industry hardliners came together in 1998 to create an “Action Plan” to combat America’s growing fondness for fighting climate change.
This plan would provide a blueprint for undermining the climate movement over the next four years.
But, the environmentalists were also well-organised. Having bought shares in ExxonMobil, they attended the corporation’s first annual meeting, held in Dallas in May 2000, and used it as a platform to attack Exxon boss Lee Raymond and the corporation’s policies.
When one activist shouted for a “long-term solution to global warming”, applause rippled through the room. Raymond, infuriated, let rip.
Reading from a petition apparently signed by 17,000 scientists, he railed: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that any release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will in the foreseeable future cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate.”
Continuing in his own words, “I’m not saying you’re wrong. What I am saying is there is a substantial difference of view in the scientific community as to what exactly is going on.”
Raymond was not going to be put off by the activists. 2000 was a big year for the corporation as the US election cycle started, pitting industry insider George W Bush against environmentalist Al Gore.
It was a chance for the corporation to be free of the threat of the Democrats’ regulatory ambitions, and so the funding of denial organisations continued to increase.
The move to disinformation would prove a defining issue of ExxonMobil’s strategy and influence throughout the first Bush term.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist, founder of Request Initiative and co-author of Impact of Market Forces on Addictive Substances and Behaviours: The web of influence of addictive industries (Oxford University Press). He tweets at @EcoMontague. This article first appeared at Desmog.uk.