Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, October 5th, 2015 - 24 comments
Categories: accountability, climate change, global warming - Tags: denier industry, ExxonMobil, global warming, hockey stick, scum
Exxon: The Road Not Taken
Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago
Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.
At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.
“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.
It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.
A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.
“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk.
His presentations reflected uncertainty running through scientific circles about the details of climate change, such as the role the oceans played in absorbing emissions. Still, Black estimated quick action was needed. “Present thinking,” he wrote in the 1978 summary, “holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”
Exxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.
Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day. …
Looks like Exxon had it down pretty well:
What Exxon Knew Then Is What We Know Now
Look at the graph at the top of the post.
This is a graph from the now famous Exxon documents that date to 1981, explaining how Exxon scientists were projecting global warming with continued release of the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere….
There are several interesting things about this graph. First, it was made in the 1980s, which proves that an IBM Selectric can make graphs. But never mind that. The graph shows the range of global surface temperature (vertical axis) over time (horizontal axis) in the past and future. If there was no effect from the human generated greenhouse gas CO2, global surface temperature would range, and had previously ranged, between about a half a degree C (Kelvin in the graph, but one degree K is one degree C) above and below a hypothetical baseline. However, given the influence of human generated greenhouse gas, the temperature rises.
…Exxon 1981 had it right. The revelations of the Exxon research, and the fact that it was kept secret and all that, is an interesting story. And, that story will develop over coming days, week, and months. But I don’t want to lose track of the other story, in some ways even more interesting. How surprised should we be, after all, that a major corporation would both look into and ignore, possibly even repress, the science associated with their primary activity? Not at all, really. But what is surprising is that we (and by “we” I mean scientists who have studied climate change) have understood the basic problem for a very long time, and decades of research have confirmed early findings, and of course, added important details.
So like Big Tobacco, Big Oil has known for decades that it was selling us a product that was killing us, and not only kept selling it, but did all it could to lie and deny. As I said at the start of the post I guess its not really surprising. But it is completely and utterly depressing none the less.