Although their own scientists issued dire warnings about the dangers of climate change, Exxon has publicly funded research against climate change.
Exxon researchers conducted extensive research into the science of climate change in the late 1970s, outfitting one of the company’s supertankers with cutting-edge equipment to measure carbon dioxide in the ocean and the air, according to reports.
A recent study published in the journal Science said Exxon’s scientists made remarkably accurate predictions about how much burning fossil fuels would warm the planet over the coming decades.
However, the oil giant has publicly questioned climate science for years and warned against any drastic reduction in fossil fuel use, which is the primary cause of climate change. It also ran a PR campaign that highlighted the flaws in the science behind global warming, according to Euro News.
ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Lee Raymond stated at a company annual meeting in 1999 that global warming predictions “are based on completely unproven climate models, or, more often, on sheer speculation.”
The following year, he stated in a company brochure: “We do not now have a sufficient scientific understanding of climate change to make reasonable predictions and/or justify drastic measures.
Exxon, which has been accused by environmentalists of misleading the public about climate science, said in a statement that “those who talk about how ‘Exxon Knew’ are wrong in their conclusions.”
“We now have airtight, unimpeachable evidence that ExxonMobil accurately predicted global warming years before it turned around and publicly attacked climate science and scientists,” said Dr. Supran, according to The New York Times.
“Our findings show that ExxonMobil’s public denial of climate science contradicted its own scientists’ data.”
However, the company has yet directly address the new study, published by researchers at Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and which builds on previous research that demonstrates Exxon scientists have been warning their executives about “potentially catastrophic” climate change for decades.
The burning of coal, gas, and oil is increasing global warming and sea level rise, which will have devastating effects on weather patterns around the world, including more intense storms, worsening droughts, and deadlier wildfires.
Although their own scientists issued dire warnings about the dangers of climate change, other fossil fuel companies, electric utilities, and automakers have come under fire for downplaying the threat.
Numerous lawsuits demanding billions of dollars in climate damage have been filed in recent years by cities, counties, and states accusing Exxon and other corporations of misleading the public.
A US House committee interrogated oil executives last year, including current Exxon CEO Darren Woods, about whether their companies misled the public about climate change. The positions, according to Woods, were “entirely consistent” with the accepted scientific theory at the time.
In the new study, global warming predictions made or noted by Exxon scientists between 1977 and 2003 were quantitatively analysed by Geoffrey Supran, Naomi Oreskes, and Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute.
The authors claimed that these documents, which comprise internal memos and peer-reviewed papers written with outside academic researchers, make up the largest publicly available collection of global warming projections ever compiled by a single company.
Overall, the study found that Exxon’s global warming predictions accurately predicted subsequent temperature rises of about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade.
The researchers discovered that the company’s scientists actually ruled out the possibility that global warming caused by humans was not taking place.
The study found that Exxon’s scientists also correctly predicted when human-caused global warming would first be detected and estimated how much carbon dioxide could be added to the atmosphere before warming reached a dangerous threshold.
However, the company continued to mention the possibility of an impending ice age. Exxon studies made some temperature predictions that were even more extreme than what the planet has already seen.