"Unless that happened, 'there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered,' the primer said, citing independent experts. 'Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.'"
Exxon knew. The company was part of an industry that was profiting from a product that was polluting the planet with potentially "catastrophic" consequences that "endangered humanity."
So what did Exxon do with that knowledge?
What Exxon Did
What did Exxon do after company scientists provided indisputable evidence of the risks their product posed to the planet and humanity? The ICN report continued:
"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."
Exxon hid its corporate lobbying effort using a network of front groups disguised as ideological organizations and "think tanks" to disseminate disinformation and anti-government propaganda. They worked to sow doubt about the science -- including smearing scientists and environmental activists -- and to delegitimize potential efforts by governments to regulate its product. They also funded politicians who would help block efforts to regulate them. The ICN report explains:
"Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world's largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions."
Exxon and other companies utilized a network of front groups to push what has come to be called "climate denial." The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) looked at what they call Global Warming Skeptic Organizations and warned...
"These organizations play a key role in the fossil fuel industry's 'disinformation playbook,' a strategy designed to confuse the public about global warming and delay action on climate change. Why? Because the fossil fuel industry wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas -- even though the science clearly shows that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet."
The Union of Concerned Scientists' "Climate Deception Dossiers" examine a "coordinated campaign of deception" that is "underwritten by ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, Peabody Energy, and other members of the fossil fuel industry." ExxonSecrets has mapped the networking of many of these organizations. And from 2007, New report from Union of Concerned Scientists documents ExxonMobil's disinformation campaign:
"Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco's Tactics to 'Manufacture Uncertainty' on Climate Change, a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists, details how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry's disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. The section of the report on 'Buying Government Access' includes discussion of documentation we made available in 2005 and issues we have raised since then."
The Tobacco Model
The Exxon/industry campaign strategies and tactics did not come out of nowhere. Tobacco companies had paved, refined and perfected the way.
After scientists and doctors began to warn that tobacco was causing cancer in people, tobacco companies came up with a plan to block the government from regulating their product. They created a campaign to convince the public that the science was not certain. They pioneered the use of organizations disguised as political and ideological organizations to disseminate anti-government propaganda aimed at preventing regulation of their product.
More than 480,000 Americans still die every year because of what the tobacco industry did. But their campaign to keep the profits rolling in didn't just kill people; it turned a substantial portion of the American public against their own government. They disguised their propaganda as "limited government" ideology, but it was really just a plan to limit the government from regulating them.