Climate Change Original 1982 Exxon research predates 2015 conclusions by decades (

Published on September 22nd, 2015 | by Sandy Dechert


ExxonMobil Boasts Climate Science, Obscures Masquerade

September 22nd, 2015 by  

As we reported last weekInsideClimate News has an investigative series going about Exxon (a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, called ExxonMobil since 1999) quietly studying fossil fuels and global warming. Reporters at ICN’s Pulitzer Prize-winning website searched the record and interviewed retired Exxon employees and officials involved with the early program.

Original 1982 Exxon research predates 2015 conclusions by decades (

Original 1982 Exxon research predates 2015 conclusions by decades (

They found that in 1978, Exxon’s own scientists were telling the company that oil and gas prospecting and use contribute to global warming, and that subsequent changes would wreak havoc on the planet’s atmosphere and climate.

The reports preceded what the scientific community now sees as consensus:

  • 80% of recoverable fossil fuels should be left in the ground.
  • Atmospheric CO2 rise and temperature increases would be clearly apparent by 2010.

In an audio interview, Exxon spokesman Richard Keil reacts to the publicity on how the petroleum company pioneered climate change research in the 1970s and early 1980s—until it started funding political denials of the phenomenon from 1989 to 2007. “I reject that narrative,” he says.

Exxon’s denial-based spending spawned campaigns of disinformation among other petro companies, large corporations, the media, and religious that have slowed—fatally, some opine—the planet’s response to global warming. The Guardian reported yesterday that in Europe, BP is the chief obstructionist of climate action. The Influence Map study we also reported on days ago showed that nearly half of the world’s top 100 global companies have used lobbying, advertising, and influence-peddling to mislead the public and misdirect action on climate change.

Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and outspoken founder of the global grassroots climate campaign, has a few words to say about the subject in The New Yorker:

“Lee Raymond, who became the Exxon CEO in 1993—and was a senior executive throughout the decade that Exxon had studied climate science—gave a key speech to a group of Chinese leaders and oil industry executives in 1997, on the eve of treaty negotiations in Kyoto. He told them that the globe was cooling, and that government action to limit carbon emissions ‘defies common sense.’”

Rex Tillerson, Raymond’s successor, has admitted the existence of climate change. However, he told listeners in May that “mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity,” which would stand us in good stead in the case of “inclement weather” that “may or may not be induced by climate change.”

McKibben goes on:

“In the nineteen-seventies and eighties, the company employed top scientists who worked side by side with university researchers and the Department of Energy, even outfitting one of the company’s tankers with special sensors and sending it on a cruise to gather CO2 readings over the ocean. By 1977, an Exxon senior scientist named James Black was, according to his own notes, able to tell the company’s management committee that there was ‘general scientific agreement’ that what was then called the greenhouse effect was most likely caused by manmade CO2; a year later, speaking to an even wider audience inside the company, he said that research indicated that if we doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, we would increase temperatures two to three degrees Celsius.”

Ten years after Black’s statement (while Exxon scientists continued their systematic climate research), NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming. Exxon said nothing then about its own independent research, which Keil is now touting, and which totally supported Hansen’s findings. Nor did it move toward renewable technology. Instead, the hugely profitable oil and gas corporation moved to set up and/or fund extreme climate-denial campaigns.

Marvin B. Glaser, an Environmental Affairs Manager at the company, distributed an internal memo about the research on November 12, 1982.

“In a cover letter to 15 Exxon executives and managers, Glaser said the document provided guidance on the CO2 ‘Greenhouse Effect,’ which is receiving increased attention in both the scientific and popular press as an emerging environmental issue. The material has been given wide circulation to Exxon management and is intended to familiarize Exxon personnel with the subject. However, it should be restricted to Exxon personnel and not distributed externally.”

Today, Lisa Song, Neela Banerjee, David Hasemyer report in ICN that although Exxon confirmed global warming in 1982 with its in-house climate models, the company chairman later mocked climate modeling as unreliable. Apparently, from the other side of a multitalented brain, he also campaigned to stop any action to cut fossil fuel emissions.

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • Robert Pollock

    We have that person and his company from Georgia that sold the tainted peanut butter knowingly, which made over a hundred sick and killed 6 or 7 or 9 people, we have VW, blatantly confidencing the EPA and California Clean Air testers, and now this from Exxon, which is just as criminal but immeasurably more potent and dangerous to everyone. When do these people go to jail? By the time we fight through their legal flack jackets, it’s too late and the damage has been done anyway. Exxon, Dick Cheney, this CEO from the ’80’s and all the rest should be put on one of their giant tankers and set adrift.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s harder to attribute a specific death in the case of the pollution coming from VW exhaust pipes.

      With tainted peanut butter or exploding gas tanks (Ford Pinto) there is a specific victim and a clear cause/effect connection.

      The US may go after VW individuals who knowingly violated EPA regs. They may be prosecuted for that, not for pollution related deaths.

  • What’s really sad thing is that the work done by Exxon chemical engineers on its simplified climate model was remarkably accurate. The exact same math and physics behind thermodynamics and transport phenomena used to evaluate heating of a semiclosed spherical system and the efficacy of refinery units of operation are pretty darn similar. And of course the mechanistic chemistry behind batteries for EVs.

    There was a short time when industry pretty much embraced environmental protection ranging from groundwater remediation to atmospheric climate science. It was truly during the 1990s when industry and politicians opted to deny and obfuscate any and every environmental issue. This was the lost decade of the environmental business, where cost benefit analysis was required before implementing any type of control. So the work went from actual treatment to risk analysis on the ongoing problem. Or the work went from engineering to consulting. This was called “risk away the problem.” It’s also called bury the issues under a mountain of paperwork. And it kept smart people busy on something other than the problem at hand, i.e. emissions or contamination.

    There’s a warning here. It’s not bright to avoid local environmental protection in pursuit of a “bigger picture” like climate change simply for marketing to sell more units. The foundation of all environmental protection measures is the Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Basically all the work done under climate science is an environmental investigation or EIS. We’re already seeing EIS being pushed aside, downgraded, and completed avoided in the gogo pursuit of solving climate change.

    • Matt

      Environmental cost benefit analysis as used was a freaking lie. Using a true CBA we would have had a carbon fee/dividend system in 1980 and coal electric would cost 5-10x what it does today and have already been replaced. Notice they only ask for CBA on stopping damage, never on those that were doing the damage.

  • Larry

    How do you spell GREED? Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries, Chevron, Conoco/Phillips

  • JamesWimberley

    Ethically, is this any better than VW’s rigging of the emission tests? VW will pay billions in fines and compensation, and some executives may go to jail. Exxon and its managers, who lied to policymakers and funded propaganda to prevent action that could hurt its profits, will get off scot-free.
    Delenda est Carthago. Big Oil must die, the death of a billion cuts.

    • Larry

      Buy an electric vehicle as soon as you can afford one and let the BIG Oil boys drink their crude oil

    • I’d say it’s worse than what VW did, given the stakes.

    • wattleberry

      Just what I was going to say.

  • Martin

    Well is that fact that CO 2 emissions raise our planet temp a “new science”,according to some people, it has been known for about 100 years plus, just like some other science, like x-rays, and some medicine, perhaps we need to discount those as well! 😉 😉

    • Martin

      Sandy or Zach, perhaps either of you could do an article that points out the peer reviewed science, was it 1865 or 1885, of the impact of CO 2 on out planet and compare it with other science we use everyday.
      Penecillin and other anitbiotica, x-rays and related science, nuclear power etc.
      Would that b a good talking point when confronting climate change deniers? 😉

      • I honestly give very little time and attention to deniers any more. They’re small in number and I think the less attention we give them, the better. The problem is decision makers who don’t want to deal with global warming and climate change, but that’s because their connections are in fossil fuel industries. They will do whatever they can to protect those industries. Debating the matter can go on forever, but simply finding ways to take down the dirty filth of machines burning fossil fuels is the way forward, imho. My favorites approaches these days are getting people excited about EVs and solar.

        But yeah, Sandy can take this on, and maybe she will. 😀

        • Martin

          Thank you, Zach. 🙂
          I was thinking about talking points with politicians (in public) during election times, the only time when they pretend to listen to the people who pay their wages (all of us).

        • NRG4All

          Just recently it was reported on the evening news in Phoenix that Rep. Paul Gossar refused to attend the joint Congressional presentation by Pope Francis because the Pope stood for environmental action and Gossar is a denier. It seems like no matter how much information we make available to deniers, it is an unshakable belief… and they vote.

          • Yeah, so sad. Some of these guys are either so bought or so locked into the bias of certain groups and connections that they are willing to deny the imperatives of their religious leaders. Shows you 1) how prejudiced to the facts they are and/or 2) how little they care about the views of their religious leaders.

  • Gregg Warnock

    Well, that’s a real shocker,,,,

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