ExxonMobil’s climate predictions were spot on; too bad their message wasn’t

It has been well established that oil companies spread misinformation for decades about climate change. But many may wonder if the misinformation was an innocent oversight or if the companies intentionally spread disinformation they knew not to be true. 

Photo by Pixabay

In a study published this month in Science, the authors concluded the latter. That is, the authors found that ExxonMobil scientists knew and shared with management that human-caused climate change was real and their projections at the time (during the 1970-80s) regarding global warming accurately predicted today’s climate crisis, even though ExxonMobil’s management publicly denied it all: 

On the basis of company records, we quantitatively evaluated all available global warming projections documented by—and in many cases modeled by—Exxon and ExxonMobil Corp scientists between 1977 and 2003. We find that most of their projections accurately forecast warming that is consistent with subsequent observations. Their projections were also consistent with, and at least as skillful as, those of independent academic and government models. Exxon and ExxonMobil Corp also correctly rejected the prospect of a coming ice age, accurately predicted when human-caused global warming would first be detected, and reasonably estimated the “carbon budget” for holding warming below 2°C. On each of these points, however, the company’s public statements about climate science contradicted its own scientific data.

I encourage you to read (or at least skim) the Science article. What if ExxonMobil and other oil companies had simply shared the truth instead of hiding it and preventing real progress on climate change? One can only imagine.

Paul Litwin


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