What Exxon Knew and When?

exxon3 Eli is, in my view, rather over-excited by insideclimatenews's Exxon's Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels' Role in Global Warming Decades Ago. The interesting question that remains is that since they did not disclose their knowledge to shareholders, will some lawyers get rich? is, I think, not an interesting question at all. The answer is No - at least, they won't get rich by winning payouts against Exxon because of this. All this seems like a re-tread of the similarly unspectactular The Climate Deception Dossiers?

insideclimatenews breathlessly tells us that Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions. The piece quotes stuff from internal company meetings "according to a written version [James F. Black] recorded later" but doesn't, as far as I can see, tell me where this information comes from2. But it does point me at briefing material on the CO2 "Greenhouse" Effect so I'll look at that.

This report isn't a result of internal Exxon research; its essentially a survey of what was available at the time. They look at the Charney report, for example. Skimming, it looks to be what a careful unbiased researcher might well write. From1 the summary:

Atuospherlc monitoring prograEs shown thc leve1 of carbon dlorlde 1n the attrospbere has lncreased about 8% ovcr thc last tHenty-flve years and now stands at ebout 340 ppm [and its anthro]... Thc carbon dloxlde conteDt of tbc atDosphere ls of concern since it can affect gl,obal cllnate... This phenooenon 1s referred to ss the ngreenhousc effcctn... We estimate doubllng could occur arormd the year 2090... Our best estlnate ls tbat doublhg... could lncrrasr average global tcBperatur! by about l.3 to 3.1 oC

Then its worth quoting the rest of the summary exactly, so I'll do screenshots.


All of that seems pretty mainstream. None of it is secret, they haven't come up with anything startling as a result of synthesising other people's work. There's no way you could sue them for failing to disclose any of it.


1. Cut-n-pasted from the online thing, which has auto-char-recognition on it, though it doesn't work brilliantly. In particular, searching for phrases doesn't really work. I've done some corrections where the meaning would be unclear (for example, "340 ppm" came out as "3q0 pp").

2. Thanks to M, who points out that the sidebar does contain links:

* James Black Talk (1977)
* "Bad News" Letter (1978)
* CO2 Forecast (1980)

I'll update this when I've read them. There's also a link to more documents including Presentation to NOAA (1979) - damn, those sneaky Exxon guys were hiding their stuff where no-one would ever find it!


* Rip her to shreds

More like this

And of course, being the fossil fuel apologist that you are, you will do everything in your power to minimize the message here.

By Thomas Lee Elifritz (not verified) on 16 Sep 2015 #permalink

The closest parallel would be to the tobacco companies, who publicly insisted that there was no link between cigarette smoking and cancer long after everybody else who had some expertise in the field and wasn't being funded by Big Tobacco knew that there was. IIRC they eventually settled such that US states got some funding for anti-smoking programs, Several individual plaintiffs and/or estates tried to sue the tobacco companies, but almost all of them were unsuccessful, because the Surgeon General had required warnings on cigarette packages since 1963. In other words, the plaintiffs should have known better.

Exxon et al. don't have anything comparable to the Surgeon General's warning to protect them, but I suspect it will be harder for individual plaintiffs to demonstrate standing. IANAL, but my guess is that the only lawyers who might get rich from this kind of litigation would be the ones Exxon et al. pay to defend against such suits. I also understand that many of the PR people who worked for Big Tobacco back then work for Exxon et al. now, so they have experience at this kind of thing.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

Eric, I'll disagree on the basis that these Exxon docs are sufficiently comparable to the "secret Big Tobacco docs" that were ultimately used successfully in lawsuits against Big Tobacco. It took numerous lawsuits before achieving major success, and no doubt it will take similar or more to do likewise to Big Carbon.

Moving public opinion is the first step, and these docs could certainly do that if they were publicized adequately. Keep in mind what the right wing does with total fabrications such as the Planned Parenthood videos. We need to at least have the courage to take truthful information and use it as vigorously and ferociously to press our points.

Then, instead of going for individual plaintiffs, one possible route for legal action would be to go for strengthening EPA regs on CO2. Here was Exxon admitting that CO2 was a pollutant. That deflates current denialist claims that it is not, and opens the door toward increasingly stringent regulation.

Yes, Eli is not one of the Kool Kidz.

OTOH everybunny knew that 97% of climate scientists were on board with the IPCC.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

This makes a lot of sense. Exxon sells, what, 2% of the world's oil, but should have committed hari kiri on behalf of the governments that produce the other 98%. Instead, they wrote a fair assessment of the state of the science. Shameful.

. . . and then buried the bad news as well as funding a propaganda campaign which questioned their own conclusions. Shameful

[I agreed they funded a propaganda campaign, and that was shameful. But I don't know where you get "buried the bad news" from. They didn't publish their internal report - but so what? The report wasn't news. It was just a summary of what was already known.

Its this point that everyone seems to miss; including the article that started this; and from the point of view of lawyering, its crucial -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

> but doesn’t, as far as I can see, tell me where this information comes from.

There is some related material in the sidebar, top-right.

[Ooh, thanks, I missed that -W]

Someone had a particularly good 1979.

"The wine measruement progrram wouJd procure some I00 bott].es of wine that have well docwmented histories, pnobably from a single chateau in FYance. Ttrese wines wu1d be arnlyzed for C-13 using ttte highly sophis- ticated facilities at EPnCo., and for C-14 using the unique equipmnt at the University of Miami (School of Marine arrt Atnos$reric Science). Ttre plogram wouLd start. irt May 1979."


[Ah, now we can understand why the character recognition is so flaky... -W]

What puzzles me is that I think this information has been available for some years. Perhaps not the whole of it, but parts. I think it's a good idea to bring it front and center from time to time (Frontline's direct videos are helpful) but it is not, to me, news.

However, given that we are going backwards in disacknowledging the simplest information on climate dynamics and how it is changing, along with the likelihood of various levels of risk, and as a general population appear to have no grasp whatsoever of either trends or the big picture (time and/or space), perhaps the return to lowest common denominator information is necessary, with frequent reminders as our public civility is degraded by the hour in the clownship that is US election season (election is still almost 14 months away)

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

The analysis suggested that significant changes would be on an end-of-century timescale or longer and that there were significant uncertainties. To the extent that they "funded" anyone the persons involved probably held similar understandings. The persons who should be ashamed are the ones claiming 4 C by 2030 or that there was no global Medieval Warm Period

[Oooooh, and you were doing so well until that last clause -W]

Tom C #11 went wrong I think in his second sentence, and that's what could get Exxon in trouble. Been meaning to look up the caselaw on fraud via a proxy - I'll admit I don't know that field but I expect there's danger for Exxon there.

You'll still need additional steps to prove Exxon funded denialists with the intent to spread fraudulent information, but I think there's potential.

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

Isn't this the same Exxon that donated $100 Million to Stanford University's Global Climate and Energy Project?

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

Ah, hello again, Tom C. Do you remember your comment here where you made all sorts of nasty claims about Mann? And that when we asked you to provide evidence for your claims you said you would but didn't? Would you please be so kind as to show us your evidence.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 18 Sep 2015 #permalink

Julian might as well ask Naomi to provide references to papers on tobacco reseach done at Rockefeller University using RJR moolah.

The null set is hard to cite.

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 18 Sep 2015 #permalink

Russell might tell us the annual retainer that Fred got.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 18 Sep 2015 #permalink

Julian –

Thank you very much. You are a clever boy and tenacious as well.

OK, here is what I said:

"Mann went after Steyn instead of the many other credentialed scientists who made accusations tantamount to fraud because he thought he could intimidate Steyn on technical issues."


1.Atte Korhola, speaking about Mann 2008 which was another rehashing of MBH – “Normally, this would be considered as a scientific forgery”
2.Matti Saarnisto, speaking about Mann’s continued use of the Tiljander series upside down – “It has been turned upside down twice in Science and now I doubt if it can be a mistake anymore”
3.Zbigniew Jaworowski, speaking about Climategate- These researchers are guilty of brazen fraud
4.Hal Lewis, speaking about the Climategate emails in which Mann was front and center – “It is the greatest and most successful pseudo-scientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist”.
5.Lars Kamel – speaking of MBH – “..it turns out that the hockey stick itself may well be an example of pseudoscience”
6.Michael Fox, speaking about Mann – “We know now that the hockey stick graph is fraudulent”
7.Denis Rancourt, speaking about MBH – “The hockey stick is a sham”

Before you go off here or there, please attend to what it was I said. I said that these accusations were tantamount to fraud, not that they followed some exact verbal formula matching a textbook definition of academic fraud. If you don’t know what tantamount means, look it up. I also said that Mann went after Steyn because he was a music/theater critic and was not expected to put up as much resistance as a credentialed scientist. No matter what you think about what these guys said or whether their opinions matter, they are highly credentialed scientists.

Mann thought he could bully Steyn but it is not working.

[I haven't bothered wade into M vs S because its so obvious Mann is right and Steyn wrong; its less clear that M is wise; its clear that S is foolish. Its also obvious that discussing this will change no-one's mind. I don't want this thread to degenerate into yet another round of the HS wars; I'll step in to stop it if necessary.

For reference, the prior thread is here. Other links: Lewis; ZJ; Fox (NN) ditto others; Rancourt -W]

Denis Rancourt: physicist, believes "global warming movement is nothing more than a 'corrupt social phenomenon'". Remarkable only in that he's a leftist.
Michael Fox: nuclear scientist/chemist, Heartland speaker, writer of "written numerous non-scientific articles questioning the existence of man-made global warming" , believed the sun's magnetic field was the main driver of climate change. Deceased.
Lars Kemel: astrophysicist whose (one?) climate paper was negatively peer-reviewed by Phil Jones. Subsquently left academia.
Hal Lewis: physicist, went 'emeritus' on both senses, resigned from APS over its support of the the 'global warming scam'. Became a member of GWPF. Deceased.
Zbigniew Jaworowski,retired professor of atomic radiation, and outspoken critic of mainstream climate science", believes "Solar Cycles, Not CO2, Determine Climate",
Matti Saarnisto, geologist, former Dir. of Finnish Geological Survey, had done legitimate paleoclimate science. His quote in full: "In that article [Science], my group’s research material from Korttajärvi, near Jyväskylä, was used in such a way that the Medieval Warm Period was shown as a mirror image. The graph was flipped upside-down. In this email I received yesterday from one of the authors of the article, my good friend Professor Ray Bradley …says there was a large group of researchers who had been handling an extremely large amount of research material, and at some point it happened that this graph was turned upside-down. But then this happened yet another time in Science, and now I doubt if it can be a mistake anymore. But how it is possible that this type of material is repeatedly published in these top science journals? There is a small circle going round and around, relatively few people are reviewing each other’s papers, and that is in my opinion the worrying aspect."
Atte Korhola - Professor in arctis climate change , has published legit research on same. "Actively involved in the public debate on climate change and its policy options" , has collaborated with researchers at UEA .Believes "As desperately as we need efficient measures to control the climate change, it is equally important to choose the right measures, measures that will improve the condition of the atmosphere and, at the same time, are economically viable." Mainly thinks environmental groups have been doing it wrong, policy-wise..

*THESE* are your slam dunk debunkers of Michael Mann, Tom C?? Of the list, only the last two have expertise in paleoclimate, both accept the reality and importance of modern AGW -- the 'blade' of the hockey stick -- and only one appears to have spoken out strongly about the 'stick'. The rest are just part of the clown show.

OK, let'ss look at Korhola. His quotes are from a Finnish-language blog. The *only* source for the translation of Korhola's comments I can find was a contributor to McKintyre's blog. Korhola is also translated/quoted as citing the* Wegman* report as evidence of statistical malfeasance on Mann et al's part. He's further quoted decrying the proxies were 'selectively included'; that means hes unaware of the irony of that + Wegman + McKintyre's own selective use of proxies.

By Steven Sullivan (not verified) on 19 Sep 2015 #permalink

Also amusing: Kornola's quote is about Kaufman et al (2009) -- a paper Mann isn't an author on.

By Steven Sullivan (not verified) on 19 Sep 2015 #permalink

# 16

One of the conditions of Rock U 's taking RJR's grant was that no tobcco research would be done with it -

the 45 mill paid for Prusiner's prion research which won the Nobel in medicine in 2000-

For getting the grant and running the show, President Emeritus Fred got a 1% finders fee, but, Catch 22, had to chair the RJR research oversight committee,

The film's misdirection and cutaway slight of hand conceal the fact that he published nothing on RJR's behalf-- all they got was gravitas.

I'd think Denis Rancourt would be an easier target than Steyn, considering that he has already been found guilty of libel.

Wait, if the only information Exxon had was a summary of what other people did --- what happened with all those instruments and climate scientists on that huge oil tanker to take data on CO2 while the ship was running back and forth across the Atlantic in revenue service?

They knew nothing? Nothing?? from all that work?

[The tanker stuff on air-sea fluxes was published, I think. So not secret knowledge. Also, that (I'm assuming it happened, its not clear) was valuable and useful stuff, but only one part of one element (mostly, working out the airbourne fraction) of the overall pattern -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 20 Sep 2015 #permalink

As a reminder, if anyone's feeling insufficiently cynical:
" 'It took 90 years to eradicate what was always a well-known poison from a product that everyone uses. It's a great achievement, but it really says something about how public health works globally, that it took so long ... Benjamin Franklin complained about lead poisoning in print shops.'"

The industry falsely claimed that there were no alternatives to lead, which was more profitable, and gained control over the government's scientific study of it ...."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 Sep 2015 #permalink

==> "I agreed they funded a propaganda campaign, and that was shameful. But I don’t know where you get “buried the bad news” from.

How is funding a propaganda campaign not, by definition, burying the bad news?

[By burying, I assumed Eli meant sekrit internal stuff they didn't let the world know about. I don't think your interpretation fits his words, because he said "and then buried the bad news as well as funding a propaganda campaign"; its clear Eli is regarding the burying as separate from the campaign -W]

OK. Point taken.