In an article from ScientificAmerican by Shannon Hall, called “Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago,” it is clear that Exxon has known about the risks for years and has purposefully obfuscated that truth when they went into the denial phase. Below are just two paragraphs, but please take the time to read the whole piece below or from one of the many other venues where it is published.
“Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.
Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. ‘It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,’ says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.”
As you read the above and the attached, please note this is not news. Exxon scientists used to make speeches and lectures about global warming for years. They were forerunners of the research. Yet, in the late 1990s, the management decided to move into a denial phase engaging a PR campaign to discredit the science. The purpose was to make sure the cash cow of fossil fuels continued for as long as possible. It should be noted is part of this PR campaign was to rebrand global warming as the less threatening sounding climate change.
What I also found interesting is that Shell Oil even did a video back in the early 1990s of the concerns of global warming. So, it was not just Exxon that knew what the future held. Ironically, when Exxon continued to be insufficient in their actions, their shareholders reacted. The day before the Trump White House announced the US was pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord in 2017, Exxon’s shareholders voted that management must report to them what they are doing about climate change on a recurring basis.
Again, this story really is not news, but it more clearly defines what Exxon failed to do when they knew better.