few weeks before the last great international climate conference—2009, in Copenhagen—the e-mail accounts of a few climate scientists were hacked and reviewed for incriminating evidence suggesting that global warming was a charade. Eight separate investigations later concluded that there was literally nothing to “Climategate,” save a few sentences taken completely out of context—but by that time, endless, breathless media accounts about the “scandal” had damaged the prospects for any progress at the conference.
Now, on the eve of the next global gathering in Paris this December, there’s a new scandal. But this one doesn’t come from an anonymous hacker taking a few sentences out of context. This one comes from months of careful reporting by two separate teams, one at the Pulitzer Prize–winning website Inside Climate News, and other at the Los Angeles Times (with an assist from the Columbia Journalism School). Following separate lines of evidence and document trails, they’ve reached the same bombshell conclusion: ExxonMobil, the world’s largest and most powerful oil company, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the mid-1980s, and then spent the next few decades systematically funding climate denial and lying about the state of the science.