ExxonMobil was aware of climate change years before the issue became a public concern. Despite this, the company has worked in the forefront of denying climate change.
The oil company is known to have spent millions of dollars to promote climate denial but an investigation by InsideClimate News revealed that Exxon's own research dating back as early as the 1970s has confirmed the link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming.
ICN looked at internal Exxon documents, many of which were written between 1977 and 1986, and those from archives of renowned institutions that include the likes of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The reporters also interviewed former employees, scientists and federal officials to investigate what Exxon knew about climate change.
The investigation revealed, among others, that in the late 1970s, Exxon scientist James Black told scientists and managers of the company about the implication of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
The report claimed that Black told the management committee of the company that there was "general scientific agreement" that the most plausible manner through which humans influence the global climate is through emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
The leaders of the world's biggest oil company received the warning that carbon dioxide released from the world's use of fossil fuels would cause the warming of the planet, which could eventually pose dangers to humanity. It was July 1977, well before the world became aware of the looming climate problem.
Black, who was a top technical expert in the company's Research & Engineering division, pointed to a need for quick action. The company appeared to have taken heed of Black's warning. It undertook extraordinary research on carbon dioxide, fossil fuels and how these could impact the planet.
Exxon allotted over $1 million for a tanker project that would measure how quickly the oceans were absorbing carbon dioxide. It also hired scientists and mathematicians to come up with better climate models and published the results of the research in peer-reviewed journals.
Working with outside researchers, the company's own scientists also confirmed that the warming of the planet was worse than what Black has previously warned.
Exxon, however, eventually decided to go on offense about the issue, ICN reported, for many years having been reported to have funded deniers of global warming such as the Global Climate Coalition. As the international community moved to begin to curb emissions with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Exxon's chairman and CEO Lee Raymond argued to stop it.
"Let's agree there's a lot we really don't know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond," Raymond said in his speech before the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing in October 1997.
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