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Exxon Mobil correctly predicted 1970s warming

DENVER — Exxon Mobil scientists were very precise in their predictions about global warmingEven if the company makes public statements that contradict the conclusions of its own scientists, a new study says.

The study in the journal Science Thursday looked at Exxon-funded research that not only confirmed what climate scientists were saying, but also used more than a dozen different computer models that forecast impending warming. with accuracy equal to or better than that of government and academic scientists. .

This was also the time when the oil giant openly doubted that warming was real and rejected the accuracy of climate models. Exxon indicates their understanding of climate change has evolved over the years, and critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.

Scientists, government, activists and news websites, including Inside climate news and Los Angeles Times, several years ago reported that “Exxon knew” about climate change science from around 1977 while openly doubting it. What the new study does is detail how accurate the Exxon-funded study is. Between 63% and 83% of those predictions fit strict standards of accuracy and often correctly predict that the earth will warm by about 0.36 degrees (0.2 degrees Celsius) in one year. decade.

Naomi Oreskes, study co-author and Harvard professor of history of science, said the Exxon-funded science was “really amazing” for its accuracy and precision. But she added that it was “hypocrisy given so much of Exxon Mobil’s misinformation over the years … is the claim that climate models are unreliable.”

The study’s lead author Geoffrey Supran, who began the study at Harvard and is now a professor of environmental science at the University of Miami, says this is different from what has been previously found in the company’s literature. oil.

“We dig into not only the language, the rhetoric in these documents, but also the data. And I mean in that sense, our analysis really proves the deal is ‘Exxon known,'” Supran said. It “provides us with solid evidence that Exxon Mobil correctly predicted.” global warming years ago, then go back and attack the science behind it.”

The paper quoted then-Exxon CEO Lee Raymond in 1999 as saying that future climate projections “are based on climate models that are completely unproven, or more often, speculation pure guesswork,” while his successor in 2013 called the models “incompetent.”

Company spokesman Todd Spitler said Exxon’s understanding of climate science has evolved with the broader scientific community, and its four decades of climate science research has led to more than 150 articles, including 50 peer-reviewed publications.

“This issue has come up several times in recent years, and in each case our answer was the same: the people talking about ‘Exxon Knew’ were wrong in their conclusions,” Spitler said. know in an emailed statement. “Some have sought to misrepresent Exxon Mobil’s facts and views on climate science and its support for effective policy solutions, by turning domestic policy debates on its head. ministry, well-intentioned into a corporate disinformation campaign.”

Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, has been the target of numerous lawsuits claiming that the company knew about the harm its oil and gas would cause to the climate, but misled the public. by sowing doubt about climate change. In the latest such case, New Jersey was charged Five oil and gas companies including Exxon have lied to the public for decades about the harmful effects of fossil fuels on the climate.

Similar lawsuits from New York to California have claimed that Exxon and other oil companies have launched public relations campaigns to stir suspicions about climate change. On one occasion, then-Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said that Exxon’s public relations efforts were ” reminiscent of the tobacco industry long-standing denial campaign about the harmful effects of tobacco.”

Oreskes admitted in the study that she had been a paid consultant in the past for a law firm suing Exxon, while Supran had received a grant from the Rockefeller Family Foundation, which also helped sponsoring groups that are suing Exxon. Related press get some platform support from Rockefeller and maintains full control of editorial content.

Oil giants including Exxon and Shell were accused in congressional hearings in 2021 about spreading misinformation about climate, but executives from the companies have denied the allegations.

University of Illinois professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences Donald Wuebbles told the Associated Press that in the 1980s he worked with scientists funded by Exxon and was not surprised by what the company knew or the model. That’s what science and those who study the problem already know.

“It’s clear that Exxon Mobil knows what’s going on,” Wuebbles said. “The problem is that at the same time they are also paying people who give out false information. That is a big problem.”

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

Some outside scientists and activists say what the study shows about Exxon’s actions is serious.

“The harm done by Exxon is enormous,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental department. “They know that fossil fuels, including oil and nature Air, will dramatically alter the planet’s climate in ways that cost lives, human suffering, and economic impacts. And yet, despite this understanding, they choose to publicly downplay climate change and the dangers it poses to people and the planet.”

Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald asked: “How many thousand (or more) lives have been killed or adversely affected by Exxon Mobil’s deliberate science-disguising campaign?”

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

After tracking the lobbying activity of Exxon and hundreds of other companies on climate change policies, InfluenceMap, a company that analyzes data on how companies are impacting the climate crisis climate policy, concluding that Exxon is lobbying overall against the goals of the Paris Agreement and that it is currently one of the most negative and influential corporations holding back climate policy.

Faye Holder, the programme, said: “All the research we have shows that the drive to stop climate action continues to this day, prioritizing the oil and gas industry value chain away from the threat. the “latent presence” of climate change, rather than vice versa. manager for Influence Map.

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


Bussewitz reported from New York.


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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears and Cathy Bussewitz at @cbussewitz


The Associated Press’s climate and environment coverage receives support from a number of private foundations. See more about AP .’s climate initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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