Saturday, January 28, 2023

The fossil fuel company ExxonMobil has had accurate data on how warming the planet was going to be since the late 1970s.

Internal documents released by US media in 2015 already revealed that giant ExxonMobil knew about the climate change threat caused by fossil fuels for decades, although it later publicly denied it was a problem. Was. A review has now been published in the journal Science, which analyzed the scientific knowledge that this oil and gas company actually had about the consequences of its products on the climate, concluded that its estimates accurately predicted how the planet had been warming since the late 1970s. “This is the first quantitative and systematic assessment of the fossil fuel industry’s climate projections,” says Naomi Oreskus, a professor at Harvard University and one of the authors of the paper, which adds: “Between 1977 and 2003, Exxon scientists demonstrated impressive skill and Modeled and predicted global warming with accuracy. But publicly the company spent decades denying that same climate science.”

Graphics show how ExxonMobil’s scientific projections accurately predicted the actual evolution of temperature (red line) and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (blue).Science

Developed by researchers at Harvard University (USA) in collaboration with the Potsdam Institute for Research on the Impact of Climate Change (Germany), the review analyzed 32 internal documents prepared between 1977 and 2002 by ExxonMobil scientists and 72 peer was analyzed. Scientific publications authored by ExxonMobil scientists between 1982 and 2014 were reviewed to determine the set of available climate information handled behind closed doors by the US company, which makes one of the world’s largest incomes from fossil fuel sales. Thank you. After verifying that they calculated what was expected to happen in the climate and what has actually happened, this work shows that ExxonMobil scientists reached quickly, and with high-quality science, the same conclusions that other researchers has warned. Attempts to sow uncertainty and doubt.

“Their estimates were consistent and at least as good as independent academic and government models, in some cases they were even better,” Oreskes details by email. “The company’s subsequent public statements contradict not only the general scientific consensus at the time, but also its own data. We believe it conclusively refutes any claim that ExxonMobil has access to traditional scientific information.” had a different interpretation of the data than.”

In 2019, ExxonMobil emerged successful from its first lawsuit for fraud by reporting climate change impacts to its shareholders, after the oil giant sat on the New York state bench. A judge found that prosecutors had failed to present irrefutable evidence that the company had violated state law. Yet today dozens of American cities, counties and states are suing fossil fuel companies for hiding what they really knew about the climate consequences of their products.

Harvard researchers say their findings show that ExxonMobil not only knew “something” about global warming decades ago, but knew “as much” as other scientists whose findings they are trying to publicly discredit. Furthermore, they emphasize that this is by no means the only company that has tried to misrepresent or hide information in order to downplay the threat of climate change.

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“I think it is fair to say that we have evidence that all fossil fuel companies were aware of the threat of disruptive climate change from the greenhouse gases produced from the normal use of their products from the 1970s and even the 1960s.” Oreskus says. This researcher in the history of environmental science at Harvard is also the author with Eric M. Conway of the book merchants of doubt An act that condemns the work of scientists and high-level scientific advisers for decades of hiding the truth about climate change.

“We also have evidence that other sectors concerned with fossil fuels, such as car manufacturers, were aware of the problem as early as the 1960s. And we know that other companies funded academic research on this topic in the 1970s and 1980s at major universities such as Columbia University in New York City.”

a fossil fuel giant

The fact that ExxonMobil is the company whose internal climate information has been put under the microscope is explained by the relevance of this fossil fuel giant and the particular efforts it has made in the past to dismiss warnings against climate change. One of the companies that has the best climate scientists. The “reputation” of the scientists who work at the company and the fact that they have published peer-reviewed studies “only ExxonMobil at the level of high-quality science we’re discussing here.” , “If anyone has evidence that other companies were doing high-level internal science, we’d be happy to look into that as well,” he says.

As Harvard professor explains, although for decades he denied it could be achieved, review published Science Shows that ExxonMobil did “a very sophisticated and quantitatively accurate risk assessment of climate change”. In particular, it stresses that the US company actively defended that the scientific uncertainties were too great to justify political action to stop the perceived warming of the planet (and that it would essentially reduce fossil fuel consumption). would mean to do). The exact opposite of what their own data proves. “They knew that the uncertainties were not that big”, highlighted the researcher, who quantified the percentage of +/- 20% in the case of the company’s work. “I would say it’s actually quite small what was (and still is) at stake,” Oreskes says. “None of their models suggested that climate change wouldn’t happen.”

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