Report: Exxon Knew of Climate Change Decades Ago, Ignored Its Own Scientists
Social Issues| | By Jason Owen
Oil giant ExxonMobile has, for decades, been one of the biggest opponents to the idea that human activity has contributed to climate change, but secret internal documents show that Exxon knew about climate change dangers as far back as 1977.
A Frontline investigation, along with the Pulitzer Prize-winning organization InsideClimate News, found documents from the late 70s that show ExxonMobile’s (then just Exxon) own research scientists warned company executives that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were increasing, and that the burning of fossil fuels was to blame.
The investigation, which was conducted in 2015, found that Exxon spent more than a decade studying the impact of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere to try to understand if the oceans could absorb the increased CO2 without adverse affects.
“In 1978, the Exxon researchers warned that a doubling of CO2 levels in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius and would have a major impact on the company’s core business,” wrote Frontline.
In the internal documents, one scientist wrote, “Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”
Just several years later, the researchers’ warnings would become more urgent.
From the company’s environmental affairs office, a 1982 document said that to prevent global warming, there would have to be a sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Without reversing course, it could result in “some potentially catastrophic events” that “might not be reversible.”
The document was labeled “not to be distributed externally.”
But Exxon did not heed those warnings, and their “energy strategy” in the ensuing years went in the opposite direction. For decades, the company funded climate change denial and joined the chorus of “the scientific evidence remains inconclusive,” despite an overwhelming majority of scientists agreeing that climate change is being fueled by human activity.
Edward Garvey, one of Exxon’s researchers in the investigation, explains the company’s negligence best.
“There was no questioning that … that the atmospheric carbon dioxide was increasing, that atmospheric carbon dioxide was gonna change the climate in some fashion,” Garvey said. “The question was how fast, how much, and what kind of impacts would it have … overall to the planet.”
The company knew of the “potentially catastrophic events” of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere almost 40 years ago, but choose to ignore it – and promote the opposite – because of the impacts on its bottom line, according to the report.
Watch the video below to discover more about how Exxon knew about climate change as far back as the 1970s, but fearing impacts to its financial future, it ignored its own company’s findings and instead promoted talking points that the evidence for global warming was inconclusive. Be sure to SHARE this investigation with your friends on Facebook.