When Will Chevron Commit to Reducing Effects of Global Warming?

May 25, 2016
B. D. Santer
MacArthur Fellow and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Chevron’s annual shareholders meeting took place today in San Ramon, California. During the stockholder Q&A session, stockholders and their proxies were allowed to speak, including climate scientist Dr. Benjamin D. Santer, as well as two staffers from the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS invited Dr. Santer to share his statement, copied below, along with his reflections on the experience:

Remarks by B. D. Santer at the annual meeting of Chevron shareholders

My name is Dr. Ben Santer. I am a MacArthur Fellow and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. I use “climate fingerprint” methods to study the causes of climate change.

In 1995, I was Lead Author of a chapter in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We concluded that: “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.

Since 1995, the “discernible human influence” has become far clearer. Human “fingerprints” are identifiable in warming of the oceans and land surface, in changing rainfall patterns, in declining Arctic sea ice extent, and in sea level rise. Over our lifetimes, we are witnessing large and rapid changes in climate. If these changes are unchecked, future generations will grow up in a world with a very different climate from that of today. They will inherit climate debt they did nothing to incur. I don’t want to see that happen. I’m sure you don’t either.

Chevron is one of the largest corporate emitters of CO2. Your actions have global consequences. You should be leaders in efforts to chart a sustainable path towards a clean energy future. You have made impressive investments in STEM education. I respectfully request that you show similar corporate leadership in acknowledging the reality and seriousness of human-caused climate change, and in making the educational investments needed to prepare the next generation for the climate challenges they will face. My specific questions are these:

  1. When will Chevron commit to align its business model with the target set by world leaders in Paris – the target of limiting warming to “well below 2°Celsius?”
  2. More than 150 companies have signed up to set science-based targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. When will Chevron join this group?

Thank you for your time and attention.

Following the meeting Dr. Santer offered the following thoughts on Chevron and Chevron’s CEO, John Watson:

My take-home message from this meeting was that Chevron is not interested in engaging constructively with shareholders who are concerned about the ever-growing impacts of climate change. Sadly, Chevron appears to be unwilling to acknowledge and confront the reality of these impacts. Within the next several decades, reality will confront Chevron.

Sherlock Holmes frequently reminded a rather different John Watson that “It is a capital mistake to theorize without data”. It is also a serious mistake to ignore data and scientific facts. In my opinion, Chevron is ignoring unambiguous evidence of a warming planet, and of significant human culpability in that warming. Human-caused climate changes are already affecting our lives, and are already affecting Chevron’s business operations. Ignoring this new reality is a singularly bad way of running one of the largest corporations on the planet.

B. D. Santer is a distinguished climate scientist who pioneered the “fingerprint” method of analysis to identify the human-caused effects of climate change. His is a MacArthur Fellow and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

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