|Did Exxon put profits and PR before science?|
A damning report from Inside Climate News
suggests this was the case.
The Pulitzer-winning publication cited the work of James F. Black, who was an Exxon scientist back in the 1970s and 1980s.
As early as 1977, Black gave Exxon a blunt assessment that carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere could change the climate, with potentially dangerous results. He said there could be extremes of heat, drought and floods.
This is a good 11 years before the concept of global warming really blasted onto the public stage, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before Congress that this was a looming issue. Black's warning was basically in line with what we now understand about global warming. Even after all kinds of new data and studies have come in about the subject.
However, sometime in the middle 1980s, Exxon changed course, according to reporting from Inside Climate News:
"Then, toward the end of the 1980a, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emission. It helped ot erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day."
Critics say Exxon could have benefitted the world had they continued to study, and change their business model to accommodate climate change. Instead, say wags, they decided to make money instead.
For its part, Exxon disputes Inside Climate News' account. Exxon isn't talking to Inside Climate News, saying their reporting is wildly inaccurate. Inside Climate News stands by its reporting.
On Sunday, though, Exxon spokesman Robert Kiel appeared on the NPR/WYNC radio show "On The Media." Co-host Bob Garfield went after the guy pretty aggressively, but the Exxon dude stuck to his talking points.
Kiel said that Exxon has continued global research uninterrupted since the 1970s. Kiel didn't dispute that Exxon was behind the campaign to sow doubt about climate change and muddy the science for the public, but said it is not doing so now.
Still, Exxon seemed to know early on something was seriously dangerous about too much CO2 emissions. It would have been great had they pursued the science, and maybe revamped the company into an alternative fuel powerhouse or something like that.
But, often its easier and more profitable to keep doing what you're doing. Hey, you gotta keep the shareholders and executives happy, right? Even if it hurts other people. Go figure.
Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.