For months, a protest movement known as “Exxon Knew” has been rallying for an official investigation, a call to action inspired by reports that Exxon had confirmed the risks of catastrophic climate change — only to deny and undermine those findings for decades publicly. This week that investigation arrived. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched the probe late Wednesday (and CNBC confirmed it Thursday afternoon), subpoenaing the company — now known as the ExxonMobil — and demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents related to climate research.
A global scientific consensus says that greenhouse gas emissions are heating the planet, roiling the atmosphere and threatening the world as we know it with irreversible damage. If economies keep burning the oil, gas, and coal that produce the majority of these gases, the climate could become unmanageable within decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
At issue in the New York state investigation is whether ExxonMobil — one of the world’s biggest oil companies — confirmed the climate destabilizing role of carbon emissions but misled the public about what they knew. Investors are also a potentially wronged party: the New York attorney general is looking at whether the company prepared shareholders for how a policy response to climate change could hurt the company’s oil business.