Exxon’s research confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming in 1977

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…

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.

Read it and weep, folks. Not that anyone who’s wandered intentionally into these pages is surprised by disclosures like this. It doesn’t take the fear-softened intellect of conspiracy nuts to understand how cover-ups work in the bastion of 19th Century capitalist minds.

We witness the same process in the day-to-day machinations of creeps like the Koch Brothers. We get to hear the blather of bought-and-paid-for flunkies in both of the political parties we’re allowed whenever they open their mouths on the topic of climate change.

Science means nothing compared to short-term profits. The lives of innocents have never counted. Why would we expect them to start keeping track of climate death, now?

Just add yourself one more reason to throw your local bum out of office if he or she is butt-kissing some oil company, coal company, taking their catechism from ALEC and legislating on behalf of the thugs who foul the planet we all live on.

10 thoughts on “Exxon’s research confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming in 1977

  1. Bette says:

    “More Oil Companies Could Join Exxon Mobil as Focus of Climate Investigations” (NYT 11/6/15) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/07/science/more-oil-companies-could-join-exxon-mobil-as-focus-of-climate-investigations.html Also “The Limits of the ‘Tobacco Strategy’ on Climate Change” (NYT OP-Ed) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/07/upshot/the-limits-of-the-tobacco-strategy-on-climate-change.html and (predictably) “Big Oil Is Not Big Tobacco: Why The Witch Hunt Against Exxon Is Absurd” (Forbes) http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2015/11/06/big-oil-is-not-big-tobacco-why-the-witch-hunt-against-exxon-is-absurd/

  2. Vic says:

    “Pressure builds to probe Exxon climate claims” http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/259436-pressure-builds-to-probe-exxon-climate-claims “The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-campaign-to-mislead-the-american-people/2015/05/29/04a2c448-0574-11e5-8bda-c7b4e9a8f7ac_story.html [or] “Prosecuting Climate Dissent : Progressives target Exxon for punishment over its research. http://www.wsj.com/articles/prosecuting-climate-dissent-1447020219 “The Climate Change Inquisition Begins : New York’s Attorney general is sending out the message that corporations who fund climate change skeptics will face political reprisal.” http://thefederalist.com/2015/11/09/the-climate-change-inquisition-begins/

  3. Update says:

    New evidence reveals that Exxon was not alone. http://grist.org/article/this-just-in-pretty-much-all-major-oil-companies-are-lying-liars/ According to internal documents obtained by InsideClimate News, between 1979 and 1983 the American Petroleum Institute (API), a fossil fuel interest group, worked with oil companies to “monitor and share climate research.” Participants included scientists hired by Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, and more. Basically, they all knew about climate change, and they all quietly and intentionally brushed evidence of it under the rug.

  4. Honker says:

    “Exxon Pushes Back Against Harvard Scientists’ Findings That the Company Misled the Public” https://psmag.com/environment/exxon-pushes-back-against-findings-that-company-misled-public “…Analyzing 187 documents published between 1977 and 2014, Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science, and Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow, reported that, even as the company publicly played up uncertainties about climate change, internally, it recognized both the validity of the science and the threat of climate change itself. Their study was published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters.”

  5. Psycho Killer says:

    ‘Invisible killer’: fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, research finds :Pollution from power plants, vehicles and other sources accounted for one in five of all deaths that year, more detailed analysis reveals” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/09/fossil-fuels-pollution-deaths-research
    The enormous death toll is higher than previous estimates and surprised even the study’s researchers. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, a geographer at University College London and a study co-author. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.”
    “Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935121000487

  6. No free lunch says:

    “Few bitcoin projects illustrate the cryptocurrency’s enormous climate impact better than the Greenidge power plant in upstate New York. The once-abandoned power plant was bought by private equity firm Atlas Holdings and retasked. A significant portion of Greenidge’s electricity no longer powers nearby homes or businesses; rather, the plant’s smokestacks are increasingly pouring pollutants into the atmosphere in the service of mining bitcoin.
    Now, Greenidge is on the verge of ramping up its bitcoin ambitions. By the end of this year, it plans to have 18,000 specialized machines mining bitcoin, and with the recent approval of its data center expansion plans, it will add 10,500 more. When the project is complete, the miners will be using 79 percent of the power plant’s capacity, or 85 MW.” https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/05/private-equity-firm-revives-zombie-fossil-fuel-power-plant-to-mine-bitcoin/
    Bitcoin’s insane energy consumption, explained : One estimate suggests the Bitcoin network consumes as much energy as Denmark. (12/6/17) https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/bitcoins-insane-energy-consumption-explained/

  7. Grist says:

    ExxonMobil lobbyist ‘deeply embarrassed’ after he accidentally reveals 11 senators he says he relies on to push Big Oil’s agenda https://www.rawstory.com/exxonmobil-controls-11-senators/
    “Why has Andy Karsner frightened the mighty ExxonMobil? https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/06/19/exxon-board-karsner-engine1/
    The oil giant spent millions of dollars to keep Karsner, a Republican who favors renewable energy, off the company’s board of directors. It failed.”

  8. Seismologist says:

    Norway’s $1.4 trillion wealth fund takes aim at oil companies
    A government-commissioned paper on Friday proposed having climate risk underpin investment decisions across the fund. https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/8/20/norways-1-4-trillion-wealth-fund-takes-aim-at-oil-companies
    The sovereign wealth fund of Norway, which manages $1.4 trillion in assets, said there are oil companies in its portfolio that “absolutely” aren’t doing enough to cut emissions, as the guidelines under which it operates are reviewed, potentially giving the investor more scope to act.
    Norges Bank Investment Management still holds stakes in a number of fossil-fuel giants, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and BP Plc., after failing to win political approval to dump its entire portfolio of oil stocks a few years back.
    Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which allocates the fund’s portfolio, said companies “that either depend on or significantly influence ecosystems and biodiversity shall integrate these considerations in their governance structure, strategy, risk management, measurement and reporting.” Relevant sectors include mining, forestry, agriculture and energy, among others. https://www.argusmedia.com/en/news/2245402-norway-wealth-fund-targets-biodiversity

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