According to Harvard University researchers writing in a peer-reviewed journal, even as Exxon Mobil Corp.’s own scientists determined man-made global warming was real and a serious threat, it spent the last 40 years undermining public concern over climate change.
“Exxon Mobil contributed to advancing climate science — by way of its scientists’ academic publications — but promoted doubt about it in advertorials,” the Harvard researchers wrote in the journal Environmental Research Letters. “Given this discrepancy, we conclude that Exxon Mobil misled the public.”
Lawsuits brought against the world’s largest oil explorer by market value can be added extra fuel by the findings. In relation to the impact of climate change on profits, whether Exxon lied to investors and the public for almost four decades is what New York’s attorney general is probing into at the moment. Producing 10 million gallons of gasoline and other fuels every hour of every day, Exxon is one of the world’s largest sources of fuels responsible for climate change.
According to an opinion piece written by two of the authors and published Wednesday in the New York Times, Exxon said its statements on public policy and climate science “have always reflected the global understanding of the issue,” and has disagreed with their conclusion, the researchers said.
While dismissing the conclusions of the study, saying the researchers are looking for money, Exxon said it acknowledges climate change is a risk that requires action.
“The study was paid for, written and published by activists leading a five-year campaign against the company,” Exxon said in an emailed statement. “It is inaccurate and preposterous. Rather than pursuing solutions to address the risk of climate change, these activists, along with trial lawyers, have acknowledged a goal of extracting money from our shareholders and attacking the company’s reputation.”
187 climate change communications issued by Exxon between 1977 and 2014 were reviewed by the study’s authors, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, both scholars of scientific history at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their article, “Assessing Exxon Mobil’s climate change communications” was published Wednesday.
According to the research, while 81 percent of its advertorials expressed doubt over the issue, 80 percent of its internal documents and 83 percent of Exxon’s peer-reviewed scientific papers acknowledge climate change is real and human-caused. while the advertorials did not, the risk of stranded assets caused by climate change was accepted by the internal documents.
For example, a report acknowledging a scientific consensus on future warming trends caused by carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuels prepared, by the U.S. Department of Energy was helped to be written by Exxon scientist Brian Flannery in 1985, the Bottom of Form
researchers point out. According to the research, the human effect on climate change and instead promoted “natural variability” in the atmosphere was downplayed by company advertorials in 1997 and 2000 despite that conclusion.
“Exxon Mobil’s scientists and executives were, for the most part, aware and accepting of the evolving climate science from the 1970s onwards, but they painted a different picture in advertorials,” wrote Supran and Oreskes
(Adapted from Bloomberg)