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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.

HK Told To Aim Low On Clean-air Targets Officials Advise Adopting WHO’s Guidelines

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Updated on Mar 14, 2009

Hong Kong has been advised to adopt the minimum targets of World Health Organisation air quality guidelines, officials said yesterday.

They were unveiling the outcome of the air quality objectives review conducted by its consultant since June 2007. The review aimed to update the standards unchanged since 1987, with reference to the WHO guidelines issued in 2006.

Compliance with the WHO guidelines could cut hospital admissions caused by air pollution and increase the average Hongkonger’s lifespan by around nine hours, they said.

But the officials failed to offer either a timetable for meeting the targets or a road map for going beyond that, saying issues about the pace and willingness to pay for clean air measures would be left to the public to decide in a consultation later this year.

According to the review findings, Hong Kong should adopt the least stringent of the WHO’s three sets of guidelines for sulfur dioxide and ozone but relatively tougher limits for respirable suspended particles.

The consultant also proposed introducing a limit for fine particles known as PM2.5, which were believed to be more detrimental to health than heavier particles.

A total of 19 first-phase measures, including increasing the use of natural gas, were identified as helping to meet the new objectives. There were another 17 measures for longer-term targets.

Among these early measures, the most cost-effective was bus route-rationalisation. However, the early retirement of old diesel vehicles delivered most benefits.

The officials estimated that electricity charges would rise by 20 per cent if half of the city’s power was generated using natural gas. They also estimated that bus fares would increase by 15 per cent if all old buses were phased out.

However, a green group described the estimates as “scare tactics”, saying it was being used by the government to justify adoption of the least stringent of the WHO’s three sets of standards.


“The only purpose of these figures is to scare the public. But it has failed to take into account the health cost of pollution,” said Edward Chan Yue-fai, campaigner for Greenpeace.

Full compliance with the new objectives could save 4,000 hospital admissions a year. The estimated minimum cost of implementing the measures was around HK$28.5 billion.

A senior environment official yesterday declined to give an estimated time frame for meeting the objectives. The official said the pace, priority and price of the measures would be clearer after collecting views from a public forum on the review next Friday, and they would become the core questions in the final public consultation to be launched in the summer.

“The targets are ambitious and there is a lot of work to achieve them. But we will definitely speed them up,” the official said.

The official also said that no country had adopted the most stringent targets and it was believed a “progressive” approach towards meeting the long-term goals was more preferable.

The officials also warned that power plants might be unable to renew their licences while new infrastructure projects would not be able to go ahead if some unachievable targets became the criteria for environmental impact assessment.

They said “more radical measures” were required in both Hong Kong and Guangdong if the targets were to go beyond the proposed air quality objectives.

Public Forum To Look At Air-Quality Review

Cheung Chi-fai – Updated on Mar 12, 2009 – SCMP

The government is inviting the public to attend a forum next week on the review of its air-quality objectives after consultants unveil initial results that will map out a strategy.

The forum will be held on March 20, a day after lawmakers are to be briefed by the consultant. An expert group that has steered the review since 2007 will also meet tomorrow to discuss the results.

Clean-air advocates have said environment officials will probably stick largely to their previous proposal of adopting what critics have described as standards for beginners. Hong Kong has been applying the same air-quality objectives for 21 years without review, lagging far behind the latest World Health Organisation guidelines, issued in 2005.

“We do not expect the consultant to come up with recommended standards very different from what has been mentioned before,” a source close to the expert group said.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in his last policy address that the city would adopt a set of minimum interim targets as a first step towards the ultimate targets. He also said the proportion of electricity generated by natural gas would be increased to at least one-half.

The source expected officials to make minor adjustments to these interim targets, such as tightening the limits on respirable suspended particles in the air. The consultant will release findings on the cost and projected health benefits.

One of the review’s key stakeholders, CLP Power, reported yesterday that its emissions of key pollutants dropped between 16 and 30 per cent last year, as it expanded natural-gas intake from its Hainan reserve, raising its share in the fuel mix from 23 to 28 per cent. Its carbon emission also fell 8 per cent.

Meanwhile, in a “green boat” project in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong’s department of mechanical engineering, a leisure junk owned by insurer Aviva has become the city’s first vessel to run on diesel, mixed with 5 per cent of bio-diesel refined from waste cooking oil.

It was also retrofitted with solar panels and a micro-wind turbine to power electrical devices on board.

Researchers said bio-diesel could help cut smoke emissions by 10 per cent. They hoped to eventually test an engine that runs 100 per cent on bio-diesel and a new smoke-reduction device for the boat.

Simon Phipps, managing director of Aviva, said the retrofit cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars was minimal compared with the health costs of doing nothing to tackle air pollution.