Study: Exxon's climate projections in 1970s were spot on

Not only was the oil giant fully aware of global warming risks, the company even accurately predicted temperature increases, according to new study.
Photo: Matt Slocum/AP
Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

For a long time, US oil company Exxon downplayed the severity of global warming to the public.

In the late 1970s, however, company scientists were able to predict with a high degree of accuracy the rise in temperatures due to global warming, according to a study published this week.

”Scientists within Exxon modeled and predicted global warming with, frankly, shocking skill and accuracy only for the company to then spend the next couple of decades denying that very climate science,” writes Geoffrey Supran, one of the co-authors.

ExxomMobil formed when Exxon and Mobil Oil merged in 1999. For years, the company was accused of having known about the perils of climate change for decades.

According to Supran, the study unveils new knowledge of how much the company’s employed scientists knew and what other scientists knew during those years. 

The study compared Exxon’s forecasts with the actual climate development since then.

”They didn’t just vaguely know something about global warming decades ago,” says Supran: 

”They knew as much as independent, academic and government scientists did, and arguably, they knew what they needed to know to begin to take action and warn the public.”

Inside Climate News and Los Angeles Times jointly broke the news in 2015 that ExxonMobil had long been aware of climate change.

The media also reported that the oil giant knew that the main cause of climate change was human activities. 

32 internal research documents from ExxonMobil released between 1977 to 2002 were the basis of the study, which also looked into projections in 72 peer-reviewed scientific articles, which ExxonMobil scientists had a hand in authoring.

On average, they projected that global warning would occur at a rate of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, which is line with the current rate.

ExxonMobil’s climate change denialism has led to a number of legal proceedings in the US, many of which are still ongoing. 

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