Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
Exxon and other fossil fuel companies may have committed a crime of enormous proportions, and more and more elected officials and others are demanding an investigation.
The charge is that Exxon scientists and management knew since the late 1970s that the company's product was helping cause our planet to warm "catastrophically," but management responded by covering this up and disseminating disinformation -- joining with other companies to commit an enormous fraud on the public for profit.
For some time, environmentalists have been warning that oil and coal companies were behind a broad campaign to deceive the public and block the government from regulating or taxing carbon pollution. Sites like ExxonSecrets, the Union of Concerned Scientists, SourceWatch and their Coal Issues portal, CoalSwarm and many others have been exposing, warning, documenting and working to get the word out.
This campaign is said to have included strategic use of misinformation, propaganda disseminated through front groups disguised as ideological organizations and purchased political influence to turn a substantial portion of the public against their own government. This was so that the companies could continue to profit from selling a dangerous, destructive product.
Recent investigative reporting has been able to access internal Exxon documents and statements from company scientists that confirms what the environmentalists have been telling us.
In September Inside Climate News (ICN) broke a story they called "Exxon: The Road Not Taken." Using internal Exxon documents, Climate News showed how "Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago" that its executives suppressed as it went about "manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed." The report begins:
"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."
According to the reporting, beginning in the late 1970s Exxon scientists repeatedly warned management that their product was contributing to warming the planet, and that this could be "catastrophic." A senior Exxon scientist, for example, warned in 1977 that "Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical."
That was in 1977. Exxon scientists continued sounding the alarm and at first the company responded responsibly by launching an ambitious carbon/climate research effort.
"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."
The Los Angeles Times looked at that research effort, in "What Exxon knew about the Earth's melting Arctic," part of a year-long project "researching the gap between Exxon Mobil's public position and its internal planning on the issue of climate change." The Times' investigation was extensive, with broad access to documents and experts:
"As part of that effort, reporters reviewed hundreds of documents housed in archives in Calgary's Glenbow Museum and at the University of Texas. They also reviewed scientific journals and interviewed dozens of experts, including former Exxon Mobil employees." The LA Times report found that Exxon scientists -- and management -- understood clearly that carbon was contributing to climate change and that the effects were real and severe."
From the ICN report:
"Exxon's research laid the groundwork for a 1982 corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change prepared by its environmental affairs office. Marked 'not to be distributed externally,' it contained information that 'has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.' In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming 'would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.'