Exxon Mobil has accurately predicted warming since the 1970s, study finds

Exxon Mobil has accurately predicted warming since the 1970s, study finds

Exxon Mobil has accurately predicted warming since the 1970s, study finds

Exxon Mobil scientists have been remarkably accurate in their predictions about global warming, even though the company has made public statements that contradict the findings of its own scientists, according to a new study.

The study published in the journal Science looked at Exxon-funded research that didn’t just confirm what climate scientists were saying, but used more than a dozen different computer models that predicted future warming with equal or equal accuracy. superior to that of government and academic scientists.

It was around the same time that the oil giant publicly doubted the reality of global warming and rejected the accuracy of climate models. Exxon said its understanding of climate change has evolved over the years and critics misunderstand its past research.

Scientists, governments, activists and news sites, including Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, reported several years ago that “Exxon has been aware” of the science of climate change since around 1977, while publicly casting doubt.

The new study details the accuracy of Exxon-funded research.

63% to 83% of these projections meet strict standards of accuracy and generally correctly predict that the globe would warm by about 0.36 degrees (0.2 degrees Celsius) per decade.

“Amazing” Accuracy

The Exxon-funded science was “actually astonishing” in its precision and accuracy, said study co-author Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard science history professor. But, she added, “So was the hypocrisy because a lot of the misinformation from Exxon Mobil for so many years…was the assertion that the climate models were unreliable.” .

The study’s lead author, Geoffrey Supran, who started the work at Harvard and is now a professor of environmental science at the University of Miami, said this was different from what had previously been found in documents on the oil company.

“We dug into not just the language, the rhetoric of these documents, but also the data. And I would say that in that sense, our analysis really seals the deal on ‘Exxon Knew,'” Supran said. It “gives us compelling evidence that Exxon Mobil accurately predicted global warming years ago, then turned around and attacked the science behind it.”

The newspaper quoted Exxon CEO Lee Raymond in 1999 as saying that future climate projections “are based on totally unproven climate models, or more often, pure speculation”, while his successor in 2013 called the models of “non-competent”.

Exxon: Internal Political Debates

Exxon’s understanding of climate science has grown with the wider scientific community. Its four decades of research in climate science have resulted in more than 150 papers, including 50 peer-reviewed publications, said society spokesman Todd Spitler.

“This question has been raised many times over the past few years, and in each case our response is the same: Those who talk about how ‘Exxon knew’ are wrong in their conclusions,” Spitler said in a mailed statement. electronic. “Some have sought to misrepresent the facts and Exxon Mobil’s position on climate science, and its support for effective policy solutions, by recasting well-meaning internal political debates as an attempted corporate misinformation campaign. “

Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, has been the target of numerous lawsuits claiming the company knew about the damage its oil and gas would do to the climate, but misled the public by sowing doubt about climate change. In the latest such lawsuit, New Jersey has accused five oil and gas companies, including Exxon, of deceiving the public for decades while knowing about the harmful climate consequences of fossil fuels.

Similar lawsuits from New York to California have claimed that Exxon and other oil and gas companies have launched public relations campaigns to raise doubts about climate change. In one, then-Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said Exxon’s public relations efforts were “reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s long campaign of denial about the dangerous effects of cigarettes.”

Hearings 2021

Oil giants including Exxon and Shell were accused in congressional hearings in 2021 of spreading climate misinformation, but company executives have denied the charges.

Donald Wuebbles, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois, told The Associated Press that in the 1980s he worked with Exxon-funded scientists and was not surprised by what the company knew or models. That’s what science and people who looked at it knew.

The politics and economics of climate change and energy in 2023


“It was clear that Exxon Mobil knew what was going on,” Wuebbles said. “The problem is that at the same time they were paying people to spread misinformation. That’s the big problem.”

There’s a difference between the “hype and spin” companies do to get you to buy a product or politicians do to get your vote and an “outright lie…distorting factual information and that’s what Exxon did,” Oreskes said.

Fossil Fuel Damage

Several outside scientists and activists have said what the study showed about Exxon’s actions is serious.

“The damage from Exxon has been enormous,” said University of Michigan environmental dean Jonathan Overpeck. “They knew that fossil fuels, including oil and natural gas, would dramatically alter the planet’s climate in ways that would be costly in terms of lives, human suffering and economic impacts. And yet, despite this understanding, they choose to publicly downplay the problem of climate change and the dangers it poses to people and the planet.”

Cornell University climatologist Natalie Mahowald asked, “How many thousands (or more) of lives have been lost or affected by Exxon Mobil’s deliberate campaign to obscure science?”

Critics say Exxon’s past actions on climate change undermine its claims that it is committed to cutting emissions.

After monitoring the lobbying of Exxon and hundreds of other companies on climate change policies, InfluenceMap, a company that analyzes data on the impact of companies on the climate crisis, concluded that Exxon exerts a global lobbying contrary to the goals of the Paris Agreement and that it is currently among the most negative and influential corporations obstructing climate policy.

“All the research we have suggests that efforts to thwart climate action continue to this day, prioritizing the oil and gas industry’s value chain over the ‘potentially existential’ threat of climate change. climate change, rather than the other way around,” said Faye Holder, of InfluenceMap’s program manager.

“The messages of denial and delay may look different, but the intent is the same.”

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