Global warming caught everyone off guard—except the oil companies.
According to recently uncovered documents, as early as 1978, Exxon and Mobil led an industry-wide effort to understand the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, performing cutting edge research that predates much public and academic study of the phenomenon.
By 1979, the oil industry’s internal research arm was producing papers suggesting that the impact of global warming could be felt on the planet’s ecosystem within the next 20 years.
Exxon’s scientists provided time tables showing that while the impact of global warming would be “barely noticeable” by 2005, it would have “major economic consequence” by 2038 and “globally catastrophic effects” by 2067.
The American Petroleum Industry (API), the energy industry’s largest lobbying body, assembled a “Climate and Energy Task Force” in 1980, comprising scientists from companies such as Texaco, Shell, Sunaco and Standard Oil, each of which had their own research units and conducted climate modeling. The task force discussed research and development for putting alternative energy sources into worldwide use to combat the problem.
The industry decided to go a different route, however, and by the 1990s it had buried its own research and was actively lobbying to cast doubt on independent scientists who had reached the same conclusions
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