This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
A week after taking office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order “on tackling the climate crisis” that aims to face the challenge comprehensively and equitably. Biden has quickly appointed and seen confirmed a team of leaders who are committed to all aspects of this mission. Our country is finally on the cusp of meaningful climate action. The climate action train is so popular that even fossil fuel companies, which have historically sought to derail it, are now saying they’re on board.
We should, of course, welcome all sincere collaborators; the fossil fuel industry is not among them.
Yes, major oil and gas companies are finally, if reluctantly, beginning to publicly acknowledge the climate crisis, and some even claim to “support” the Paris Agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
These claims are a central part of the industry’s massive PR and lobbying campaign to position itself as an essential leader in the country’s transition to a “low-carbon” future. But given the industry’s decades-long and painfully successful effort to hide and deny the science of dangerous climate disruption in order to block national and international efforts to address it, its recent insistence on being a key part of the climate solution — and entitled to VIP status at the climate policymaking table — bears scrutiny. This is particularly so now, since science indicates that we likely still have time to maintain a habitable planet if we get climate policy right.
Fortunately, a new study published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science provides much-needed insight. The study examines whether executive pay at the top four investor-owned carbon emitting energy companies is consistent with their purported climate-friendly commitments.
Authors Dario Kenner and Richard Heede conclude that it is not.