Exxon knew its fuels cause climate change since 1977 and made no effort to do anything about it: report
Internal documents from Exxon’s own scientists, produced from 1977 and 2002, accurately predicted just how much the company’s fossil fuels would warm the planet.
But instead of changing their behaviors to meet this challenge, they hid it while paid lobbyists and “climate skeptics” sowed doubt about man-made global warming, a new study has shown.
The study, published in Science, looked at 32 internal documents and 72 scientific papers published by ExxonMobil scientists during the aforementioned years. The researchers found that 63 to 83% of the company’s projections about global warming were accurate.
Despite this, the company didn’t make meaningful investments in wind and solar energy. Instead, it continued to contribute to its business as usual (and to air pollution and global warming as a result).
“Our findings demonstrate that ExxonMobil didn’t just know ‘something’ about global warming decades ago—they knew as much as academic and government scientists knew,” the study’s authors wrote in a January 12 Science article sharing their findings.
ExxonMobil has long said that any media investigation about their knowledge of climate change was “bought and paid for” by political interests that oppose them. They also made public statements, saying that the science around fossil fuels and climate change remained “uncertain” and that predictive models of global warming — ones that matched their own accurate ones — were unreliable.
However, the study’s lead author Geoffrey Supran, wrote in the article, “Our analysis shows that ExxonMobil’s own data contradicted its public statements, which included exaggerating uncertainties; criticizing climate models; mythologizing global cooling; and feigning ignorance about when—or if—human-caused global warming would be measurable, all while staying silent on the threat of stranded fossil fuel assets.”
Exxon has recently tried to re-position itself as being “involved in the forefront of climate research, understanding and working with the world’s leading experts on climate,” according to its website. But critics have called this a form of “greenwashing” that does nothing to actually change the company’s environmental impact.
In 2022, The House Oversight and Reform Committee investigated climate disinformation pushed by ExxonMobil and other major gas companies. The company executives largely denied that they had ever pushed such disinformation.
Thanu Yakupitiyage, 350.org’s U.S. Communications-Digital Director, responded to the study, writing, “In the midst of deadly flooding in California and extreme weather across the world, we receive further proof that Exxon has known all along exactly how catastrophic their fossil fuel burning would be.”
“Exxon has deceived the public about the climate crisis for 50 years, and frontline communities are bearing the costs with hundreds of thousands of people losing their homes, lands, ability to grow food, and even their lives because of this treachery,” Yakupitiyage added. “Fossil fuel companies will continue trying to confuse and distract the public, but this fundamentally is a crime against humanity, and they must be held accountable.”