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Scientist: Exxon Knew of Climate Change in 1981, Lied

July 9 2015

Mike Harrison

It wasn’t until 1988 when climate change entered into the public spotlight in full force, after climate scientist James Hansen told Congress that the burning of fossil fuels was causing global warming due to a buildup of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

“Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981, because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia”, Bernstein wrote in an email response to an inquiry from Ohio University’s Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics. Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, meanwhile, were outed by a 2010 Greenpeace report revealing they spent significantly more than ExxonMobil between 2005 and 2008 on virtually the same groups.

Exxon, however, did not push through with its development of the Natuna gas field because of the projected implications for the environment. “They may take what appears to be altruistic positions to improve their public image, but the assumption underlying those actions is that they will increase future profits”, Bernstein wrote in 2014.

But despite these warnings and other scientific evidence known at the time, Exxon publicly refused to acknowledge climate change for over 10 years and continued to provide financial support for climate denial.

When the company discovered that the reserve of natural gas was 70 percent carbon dioxide-the primary greenhouse gas and a main driver of climate change-it abandoned the project, Bernstein says. After spending almost a year reviewing a wide range of internal corporate and trade association documents pried loose by leaks, lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, UCS researchers have compiled a broader tale of deceit. “Natural resource companies – oil, coal, minerals – have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50-100 years”. While many compare the case to the tobacco industry denying the dangers of smoking, she argues “this is an order of magnitude greater moral offense, in my opinion, because what is at stake is the fate of the planet, humanity, and the future of civilization”. It did question – legitimately, in my opinion – the validity of some of the science. “I am here to talk to you about the present”, he said. The company has since reportedly invested millions in climate change denial. “We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007″.

A new report reveals that some of the top carbon polluters were fully aware of the reality of climate change but continued to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote contrarian arguments they knew to be wrong. The Guardian has reported that even efforts by members of Exxon’s founding family, the Rockefellers, failed to convince the company to move away from denial and toward clean energy in 2004.

Exxon deliberately deceived the public about the human impact on climate change for almost three decades, launching its campaign to deliberately spread misinformation years before global warming became a hot-button issue, according to a new report.

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