In 2015, journalists mining internal documents from Exxon discovered: the petroleum company knew already in the late 1970s that fossil fuels would lead to dramatic climate changes before 2050.
Now, for the first time, researchers have conducted a systematic review of what Exxon researchers have already discovered. The analysis has been published in the journal Science Sciences.
The study concluded that Exxon’s research was very close to the developments we’re already seeing, and to the climate models of the independent researchers.
Exxon predicted that climate change will only be felt from the beginning of the 2000s. The company has estimated with great accuracy the amount of carbon dioxide that will cause dangerous warming. They also projected the carbon budget to increase the temperature to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial times.
“Most of their predictions predicted a temperature rise consistent with recent observations,” the researchers wrote in the analysis.
Jeffrey Soprane of Harvard University is one of the researchers behind the analysis. says l Watchman It “took my breath away” to see how accurately Exxon’s predictions matched reality.
– Now we have the smoking gun showing how accurately they predicted global warming years before they started attacking climate research. These charts show what Exxon has known and how it continues to provide misinformation, Soprane says.
Armed with knowledge of the climate crisis, Exxon began a year-long campaign to downplay and discredit what its scientists had found.
As recently as 2013, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said that climate models are incompetent and uncertain about the impact of fossil fuels.
– They were silent about their research and used it only when it became strategically necessary to deal with the existential threat to their business, to confront climate research, – says Subran.
Natalie Mahwald is a climate scientist at Cornell University. She believes that Exxon has contributed to the fact that investments in wind and solar power have started too late to avoid climate catastrophe.
– If we include impacts from air pollution and climate change, their actions likely affected thousands to millions of people negatively, says Mahwald.
It can be used in lawsuits
I am sure that the ongoing efforts to hold Exxon accountable will benefit from this study.
This is what Robert Brule told the Guardian. He researches climate misinformation from the fossil fuel industry at Brown University. Brulle points to a number of different lawsuits aimed at making oil companies pay for climate damage.
An Exxon spokesperson said that those who claim “Exxon knew” are wrong. Exxon cites a 2019 finding by a New York Supreme Court justice in a related case:
“What the evidence at trial revealed was that Exxon executives and employees were united in their commitment to carrying out their duties as rigorously, as thoroughly and accurately as possible. (…) The testimony of these witnesses shows that Exxon has a disciplined culture of analysis, planning, accounting and reporting.”
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