ExxonMobil has been aware of climate change since 1981, and spent much of the next 34 years funding more than 40 front groups to slow the acceptance of mainstream climate science, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported last week on the HuffPost Green blog.
The link to climate denial funding dates back to a UCS report in 2007. But now, the Cambridge-based organization is revealing that leading fossil fuel companies “have known for at least two decades that their products are harmful and have intentionally deceived the public about the climate change threat,” Negin writes.
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“Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia,” Exxon’s former in-house climate specialist, Leonard S. Bernstein, wrote in an email last October. “They were well ahead of the rest of industry in this awareness. Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue.”
He added that “natural resource companies—oil, coal, minerals—have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50 to 100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations. Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question—legitimately, in my opinion—the validity of some of the science.”
But when Mobil Oil began to understand the science of climate change in 1988, “it was much more vocal than Exxon about it,” Negin writes on HuffPost Green. “In November 1988, five months after NASA scientist James Hansen rang the alarm bell before Congress, Mobil President Richard F. Tucker cited the ‘greenhouse effect’ in a list of serious environmental challenges during a speech at an American Institute of Chemical Engineers national conference.”
Tucker called for work “at the edge of scientific knowledge” to “prevent problems at the source,” acknowledging that a global climate response “may even require a dramatic reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels.”
But “Tucker’s warning went unheeded even by his own company,” Negin says.