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Exxon knew 40 years ago
#1
From the Scientific American:

Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago

A new investigation shows the oil company understood the science before it became a public issue and spent millions to promote misinformation
The company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic.

Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformationan approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.

Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. “It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,” says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.

In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical." In other words, Exxon needed to act.

But ExxonMobil disagrees that any of its early statements were so stark, let alone conclusive at all. “We didn’t reach those conclusions, nor did we try to bury it like they suggest,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Allan Jeffers tells Scientific American. “The thing that shocks me the most is that we’ve been saying this for years, that we have been involved in climate research. These guys go down and pull some documents that we made available publicly in the archives and portray them as some kind of bombshell whistle-blower exposé because of the loaded language and the selective use of materials.”

One thing is certain: in June 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming, Exxon remained publicly convinced that the science was still controversial. Furthermore, experts agree that Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion. By 1989 the company had helped create theGlobal Climate Coalition (disbanded in 2002) to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also helped to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 to control greenhouse gases. Exxon’s tactic not only worked on the U.S. but also stopped other countries, such as China and India, from signing the treaty. At that point, “a lot of things unraveled,” Oreskes says.

But experts are still piecing together Exxon’s misconception puzzle. Last summer the Union of Concerned Scientists released a complementary investigation to the one by InsideClimate News, known as the Climate Deception Dossiers (pdf). “We included a memo of a coalition of fossil-fuel companies where they pledge basically to launch a big communications effort to sow doubt,” says union president Kenneth Kimmel. “There’s even a quote in it that says something like ‘Victory will be achieved when the average person is uncertain about climate science.’ So it’s pretty stark.”

Since then, Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denialaccording to Greenpeace. Although experts will never be able to quantify the damage Exxon’s misinformation has caused, “one thing for certain is we’ve lost a lot of ground,” Kimmell says. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere were released after 1988. “I have to think if the fossil-fuel companies had been upfront about this and had been part of the solution instead of the problem, we would have made a lot of progress [today] instead of doubling our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Experts agree that the damage is huge, which is why they are likening Exxon’s deception to the lies spread by the tobacco industry. “I think there are a lot of parallels,” Kimmell says. Both sowed doubt about the science for their own means, and both worked with the same consultants to help develop a communications strategy. He notes, however, that the two diverge in the type of harm done. Tobacco companies threatened human health, but the oil companies threatened the planet’s health. “It’s a harm that is global in its reach,” Kimmel says.

To prove this, Bob Ward—who on behalf of the U.K.’s Royal Academy sent a letter to Exxon in 2006 claiming its science was “inaccurate and misleading”—thinks a thorough investigation is necessary. “Because frankly the episode with tobacco was probably the most disgraceful episode one could ever imagine,” Ward says. Kimmell agrees. These reasons “really highlight the responsibility that these companies have to come clean, acknowledge this, and work with everyone else to cut out emissions and pay for some of the cost we're going to bear as soon as possible,” Kimmell says.

It doesn’t appear, however, that Kimmell will get his retribution. Jeffers claims the investigation’s finds are “just patently untrue, misleading, and we reject them completely”—words that match Ward’s claims against them nearly a decade ago.
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#2
Let's see, we have a Senator who sees a parallel between Big Tobacco and some Big Oil companies:

Quote:In recent months, Whitehouse has even promoted federal prosecution of groups he believes cast doubt on the supposed dangers of man-made global warming. Whitehouse recently praised an op-ed calling for federal prosecutors to go after companies and think tanks under an anti-mafia law. “Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution,” Whitehouse wrote in a May Washington Post op-ed. “Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking,” he wrote. “Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.”
Author Tells Dem Sen To Resign For Vilifying Energy Industry | The Daily Caller

However, an industry lobbyist (Epstein) defending them on the basis of free speech:


Quote:Epstein argued it’s immoral for Whitehouse and others to attack the free speech rights of companies and think tanks, especially since the modern world and all its prosperity would not be possible without fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. “Even coal today is some of the cleanest energy people have ever had access to,” Epstein said. “In North Dakota, you have some of the cleanest air in the country and an enormous amount of coal-fired power.”
Author Tells Dem Sen To Resign For Vilifying Energy Industry | The Daily Caller 

So they can say whatever they want, even if their own private research show differently (see above), spending big bucks trying to block regulation and all this in the face of a near scientific consensus?

And the silly argument about clean coal.. Epstein should google "health effects of fine partical pollution"
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#3
Note to Exxon: Lying About Climate Change Isn’t Free Speech—It’s Fraud

Facing hundreds of billions of dollars in potential damages, the fossil-fuel giant is trying to change the subject.

By Mark HertsgaardTwitter
MAY 5, 2016

When in trouble, change the subject—or at least try to. So it is that the world’s oldest, richest, and most powerful oil company, under investigation for apparently lying to investors and the public for decades about the deadliness of its products, has launched a high-stakes counterattack under the unlikely flag of the First Amendment. On April 13, ExxonMobil filed suit to block a subpoena issued by the attorney general of the US Virgin Islands. Following revelations from the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News, thesubpoena charged that the company may have violated the territory’s anti-racketeering law. It questioned whether Exxon told investors, including the territory’s pension fund, one thing about climate change (that it wasn’t a danger) while its own scientists were privately telling its management the opposite.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raised the same question when he subpoenaed Exxon in November. The oil giant turned over some 10,000 pages of documents, which Schneiderman’s staff is reviewing. But when Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker requested many of the same documents, Exxon not only refused; it went on the offensive. The company’s countersuit asserted that Walker’s subpoena was an attempt “to deter ExxonMobil from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change…. The chilling effect of this inquiry, which discriminates based on viewpoint to target one side of an ongoing policy debate, strikes at protected speech at the core of the First Amendment.”

Soon, in an exercise in mass ventriloquism, myriad voices on the right—including the Heritage Foundation, National Review, the New York PostReason, and the Hoover Institution—took up the refrain. Outraged that 16 other state attorneys general had pledged action against the fossil-fuel industry, Washington Post columnist George Will charged that the law-enforcement officials were trying “to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly ‘settled’ conclusions of climate science.” Fox News accused the AGs of “collusion” with activists, citing a meeting that a member of Schneiderman’s staff had with a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The right-wing chorus predictably glided past the fact that, as a matter of law, the First Amendment is no shield for fraud. And telling one thing to investors while privately knowing the opposite to be true, as Big Tobacco once did, is plainly fraud. But now, it was all about Exxon as the victim, with the usual left-wing villains—overreaching government and environmental extremists—trampling the oil company’s free-speech rights because it had dared to take an unconventional position on climate change. Exxon even used the same law firm that defended Big Tobacco—Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison—to file its countersuit.

Will crying “free speech” succeed in blunting the effort to bring Exxon and its fellow fossil-fuel giants to justice? It’s too soon to know, and compelling evidence runs in both directions.

Framing Exxon as a victim isn’t an easy sell beyond the right-wing echo chamber. Nor is climate denial. The vast majority of voters and policy-makers now understand that climate change is a real and growing danger. And most people have little trouble believing that Exxon knew full well about this danger, even as it spent decades and tens of millions of dollars portraying climate change as a “premise that defies…common sense,” to quote former CEO Lee Raymond.

What’s more, by enabling increased global warming, Exxon’s alleged lying has damaged many people around the world. Crucially, the victims include investors and business owners. The poor suffer first and worst from climate change, but they rarely file—much less win—lawsuits against polluters. But when people of means are damaged, they don’t hesitate to sue for compensation.

Exxon’s exposure on this front is immense. If the allegations are true, the oil giant has in effect transferred massive amounts of risk and loss onto the rest of the market and virtually every business enterprise in it. By confusing the debate, Exxon helped delay government action against climate change. The company made buckets of money, but the resulting higher temperatures and extreme weather events have cost investors, governments, businesses, and ordinary people many billions, with much larger costs ahead. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has warned that as climate change intensifies, “parties who have suffered loss or damage [may] seek compensation from those they hold responsible.”

Nor is the right’s cheerleading without its complications for Exxon. The right conflates the First Amendment argument with its cuckoo belief that climate change is a hoax, but Exxon has a different goal: to protect its public image. Exxon needs to be perceived as a good corporate citizen, and in 2016 a good corporate citizen doesn’t deny climate change.

On the other hand, no one familiar with Exxon’s history would underestimate the resources it brings to this battle. As Steve Coll documented in Private Empire, Exxon has long exercised political power and global reach more akin to that of a nation-state than of a corporation. And it is as calculating and tough as it is mighty and rich. When a jury awarded $5 billion in damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the company fought the decision to the very end. The world had seen the tragedy unfold on television—the oil-drenched seabirds, the idled fishing boats—but Exxon simply refused to accept guilt. Instead, lawyers filed appeal after appeal, dragging out the proceedings for 20 years. By the time Exxon finally paid up in 2009, the damages had been whittled down to a tenth of the original amount.

Exxon will fight this new battle even more ferociously, for the “Exxon Knew” scandal poses an immeasurably graver threat. Exxon’s potential exposure on the Valdez spill was a $5 billion fine, a sum it could have paid with ease. By contrast, Exxon Knew could involve hundreds of billions of dollars in damages, enough to bankrupt the company. It also comes when the world’s governments have committed to phasing out Exxon’s products over the next decades. These twin threats endanger not merely Exxon’s revenue but its very identity as a company that made its name by pulling oil out of the ground. For Exxon, this is shaping up as a fight to the death, and the First Amendment offers scant protection against that.
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#4
Here is Heritage Hack and Trump adviser Stephen Moore:

Quote:Liberal attorneys general from 17 states have put a big red bullseye on the chest of big oil. Their bizarre claim is that for years energy companies fraudulently covered up their knowledge that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels cause catastrophic climate change. The most recent chapter of this witch hunt is a remarkable subpoena filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, which would require ExxonMobil to turn over 40 years of internal company documents. It also demands that ExxonMobil produce all its internal communication with conservative leaning think tanks. This is nothing more than an old-fashioned, political mob shakedown of a deep-pocketed industry for money. The AGs are hoping for a repeat of the multi-billion dollar tobacco company settlement in the 1990s. The big and obvious difference here is that tobacco companies sell a product that is dangerous to one’s health. The oil and gas companies sell energy that makes all modern industrial life possible.
The Exxon shakedown over climate change - Washington Times

So it's a bizarre claim? See the earlier entries in this thread for that, which established:
  • Exxon had a different story internally about climate change than it told investors and the general public
  • Exxon contributed to organizations denying climate change
It isn't unusual for companies to be two-faced, many exaggerate the impact of proposed regulations when lobbying while downplaying it when speaking to investors:


Quote:Still it is at least a little bit embarrassing to see the predictions side by side. For instance:

Quote:In July 2015, Dennis Glass, the president and CEO of Lincoln National said in his comment letter that the proposed rule was "immensely burdensome" and "extremely intrusive," and would be "so burdensome and unworkable that financial advisors and firms will not be able to use it."; while two months earlier, Mr. Glass told investors that he didn't "see [the proposed rule] as a significant hurdle for continuing to grow that business."
None of those are unconditional quantified falsifiable predictions; they are just adjectives. But the tone is different, sure. Or:
Quote:In July 2015, the president of Jackson National Life Insurance Company said in his DOL comment letter that the proposed rule would "be very difficult, if not impossible for financial professional and firms to comply" with; then, in August 2015, the president of Jackson's parent company told investors that a similar rule in the United Kingdom actually led to an increase in retail sales and that the company was positioned to "build whatever product is appropriate under that set and adapt faster and more effectively than competitors."
Again "very difficult, if not impossible" and "adapt faster and more effectively than competitors" do not directly contradict each other, but, sure, the semantic overlap is narrow.
A Senator Doesn't Like It When Companies Lie to Government - Bloomberg View

Moreover, oil companies do produce a harmful product, but shift the cost (pollution, climate change) on society at large, something which they prefer to continue to do.

Quote:Outdoor air pollution causes more than 3 million premature deaths a year, according to a study published today in Nature. The researchers, led by Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, estimated that in 2010, 3.15 million people worldwide died from exposure to airborne fine particles, with another 150,000 dying from ozone air pollution.
Air Pollution Causes More Than 3 Million Premature Deaths A Year Worldwide | IFLScience
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#5
This Moore guy would be funny, if the consequences wouldn't be so dire

Quote:The end game here could hardly be more sinister. The AGs are following the example set by the Obama administration and the EPA to bleed and “bankrupt” oil and gas producers in America as they are doing now to the domestic coal industry. All the while, there has been no factual basis for these allegations, just conjecture and speculation. First, there is no evidence that the companies produced global warming research; second there’s no evidence they covered it up; third, there is no evidence that whatever findings this research (if it happened) confirmed or denied global warming, and fourth, there is no consensus among leading scientists about whether global warming is happening, why it is happening, or what its effect might be (positive or negative) on the planet.
The Exxon shakedown over climate change - Washington Times

Let's see shall we..
  1. ["Bleed or bankrupt oil and gas producers,"] hmm. they seem to be thriving despite a crash in energy prices
  2. ["as they are doing now to the domestic coal industry"] As it happens, coal is mainly the victim of its own hubris (ill timed takeovers) and the fracking revolution leading to a natural gas glut. What the regulations aim to do is to correct at least some of the market failure where the coal industry can externalize the enormous cost of its production (pollution, climate change) that fall on society as a whole. This is a (partly) correction for a market failure. Read more here. One might also keep in mind that the coal industry is a major force behind the climate change deniers.
  3. ["First, there is no evidence that the companies produced global warming research"] Yes Exxon did
  4. ["second there’s no evidence they covered it up"] This is what the investigation, which Moore is dead set against, is all about.
  5. ["there is no evidence that whatever findings this research (if it happened) confirmed or denied global warming"] So what Moore is saying is "they didn't do research, but if they did it didn't show global warming" Haha, how about that for hedging one's bets. Again, this is what the inquiry is all about but at the minimum, there are strong indications (once again, see here).
  6. ["there is no consensus among leading scientists about whether global warming is happening, why it is happening, or what its effect might be (positive or negative) on the planet."]. Sigh. We really shouldn't have to put this out again, but yes, there is a near absolute consensus on climate change.
For more documentation, see our climate forum
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#6
Quote:With a relatively modest expenditure of $16 million from 1998 to 2005, Exxon helped fund a network of some 40 advocacy organizations that raised doubts about the growing scientific consensus that global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions, the UCS found. Exxon, Frumhoff says, is “sort of the poster child for combining a very large contribution to the [climate] problem with an arrogant organizational culture and a significant investment in disinformation to avoid regulation.” 

Several more years passed before a passel of climate documents surfaced, not courtesy of a prosecutor’s subpoena, but as a result of journalistic digging: those reports in InsideClimate (21,000 words in length) and the Los Angeles Times. The two organizations reported that after accumulating climate knowledge for a decade or so, Exxon changed course beginning in the late 1980s, just as public debate over greenhouse gas emissions heated up.

By the 1990s, top Exxon executives were publicly raising doubts about the sorts of findings the company’s own scientists had made. In October 1997, Lee Raymond, then Exxon’s CEO, said in a speech in Beijing, “Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond.” Arguing against the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an early attempt to forge an international agreement on emission reductions, he added, “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.” Working separately from InsideClimate, the Los Angeles Times showed how Exxon incorporated climate change projections into its Arctic exploration plans in the 1990s while publicly undermining such projections.
Can ExxonMobil Be Found Liable for Misleading Public on Climate Change? - Bloomberg
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#7
Yes, of course, there is nothing wrong with finding one thing internally and saying the opposite in public. All companies should be able to deceive the public and shareholders in the name of free speech!

Quote:Citing Exxon Mobil’s right to “free speech,” 11 state attorneys general — all Republicans — filed in court this week to stop an investigation into the oil and gas giant’s decades-long history of climate denial.

The attorneys general — from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin — filed a brief to support Exxon’s request to stop the so-called “Exxon Knew” investigation, arguing that there is a “public policy debate” over climate change and that the investigation is an “unconstitutional abuse” of power.

“The Constitution was written to protect citizens from government witch-hunts such as this one, where officials use their authority and the threat of criminal prosecution to try and suppress speech on a viewpoint they disagree with,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time Texas has intervened in the investigation on behalf of the state’s largest company. Paxton and his counterpart from Arkansas filed on behalf of Exxon in May of last year when it challenged a Virgin Islands subpoena. Paxton has said the investigations are “ridiculous.”

The investigation, now spearheaded by Democratic state attorneys general Eric Schneiderman of New York and Maura Healey of Massachusetts, was prompted after the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News independently discovered that, as far back as the 1970s, Exxon scientists were aware of the role burning fossil fuels plays in climate change. Exxon subsequently funded organizations that publicly deny the science behind human-caused climate change

As a publicly traded company, Exxon has a legal requirement to disclose risk; therefore, prosecutors are investigating whether the corporation knowingly misled investors over the long-term risk of climate change. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission was also reportedly investigating as of last year.
11 Republican AGs file on behalf of Exxon, claiming climate investigation is a ‘witchhunt’
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#8
And, as it now turns out, Shell knew as well, as far back as the 1980s..

Quote:Dutch oil giant Shell knew about the impacts of climate change as early as the 1980s, according to newly uncovered documents. But as one confidential document shows, Shell also knew the world would not take action quickly enough to stop the effects of climate change. As time went on, the oil company’s lobbying efforts helped make that warning a reality.

The trove of 38 documents were first unearthed by dutch journalist Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent and also published by Climate Investigations Center. They show that, like ExxonMobil, Shell’s scientists knew about the environmental damage of burning fossil fuels well before the general public was fully aware, and even before the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change was established.

And like Exxon, Shell has worked to stall action to address climate change, including lobbying against European renewable energy targets. In 2015, for example, it spent $22 million lobbying against climate policies, according to nonprofit Influence Map.

According to perhaps one of the most significant documents uncovered — a 1988 Shell document marked “Confidential” and titled “The Greenhouse Effect” — the oil giant had an internal climate science program dating back to 1981. As the document’s authors acknowledge, fossil fuels are the “main cause” of increasing carbon dioxide emissions. It also lays out detailed analysis of the potential impacts from rising global emissions, including sea level rise, ocean acidification, and human migration.

The document concludes that the energy sector should actively engage to help stop or limit climate change. It also includes a warning: “However, by the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.”
‘Confidential’ Shell document shows oil giant knew about climate impacts over a generation ago – ThinkProgress
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