Exxon’s Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too

Neela Banerjee, Exxon’s Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too. InsideClimate News, 22 December 2015. “The American Petroleum Institute together with the nation’s largest oil companies ran a task force to monitor and share climate research between 1979 and 1983, indicating that the oil industry, not just Exxon alone, was aware of its possible impact on the world’s climate far earlier than previously known.”

The group’s members included senior scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company, including Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio as well as Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil, the predecessors to Chevron, according to internal documents obtained by InsideClimate News and interviews with the task force’s former director.

An InsideClimate News investigative series has shown that Exxon launched its own cutting-edge CO2 sampling program in 1978 in order to understand a phenomenon it suspected could harm its business. About a decade later, Exxon spearheaded campaigns to cast doubt on climate science and stall regulation of greenhouse gases. The previously unpublished papers about the climate task force indicate that API, the industry’s most powerful lobbying group, followed a similar arc to Exxon’s in confronting the threat of climate change.

Just as Exxon began tracking climate science in the late 1970s, when only small groups of scientists in academia and the government were engaged in the research, other oil companies did the same, the documents show. Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon’s and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.

See also:

Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer, Exxon: The Road Not Taken, InsideClimate News, 16 September 2015. Excerpts and additional coverage are on Muckraker Farm.

Democracy Now!, Exxon’s Climate Cover-Up Just Got Bigger: Docs Suggest All Major Oil Giants Have Lied Since 1970s. 31 December 2015. “2015, the hottest on record, was also the year ExxonMobil was caught in a more than three-decade lie. Internal documents revealed Exxon knew that fossil fuels cause global warming in the 1970s, but hid that information from the public. Now it turns out that Exxon isn’t alone. A new exposé from InsideClimate News reveals nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change at the same time as Exxon. We are joined by Neela Banerjee, the InsideClimate News reporter who broke this story.”