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Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Lies

A recent investigation revealed that Exxon has been deliberately obscuring scientific evidence of climate change for decades. The revelations should prove, once and for all, that the fossil-fuel industry has no legitimate place in the policymaking process.

BOSTON Over the last few years, a growing number of people have been taking a hard look at what is happening to our planet – historic droughts, rising sea levels, massive floods – and acknowledging, finally, that human activity is propelling rapid climate change. But guess what? Exxon (now ExxonMobil) had an inkling of this as early as 1978.

By the early 1980s, Exxon scientists had much more than an inkling. They not only understood the science behind climate change, but also recognized the company’s own outsize role in driving the phenomenon. Recognizing the potential effects as “catastrophic” for a significant portion of the population, they urged Exxon’s top executives to take action. Instead, the executives buried the truth.

There may be a silver lining to this infuriating story: the recent investigation that exposed Exxon’s deceit could end up catalyzing the action needed to address the looming climate crisis. After all, similar revelations about the tobacco industry – what the major cigarette companies knew and when they knew it – transformed the public-health landscape.

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