ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil and gas corporation, became aware of the incoming climate changes in 1980’s. However, instead of raising concerns and changing their policies to reduce their carbon footprint, the company decided to start a long campaign of disinformation.
An analysis of nearly 200 documents spanning decades found that four-fifths of scientific studies and internal memos acknowledged global warming was real and caused by humans. At the same time a similar proportion of hundreds of paid editorials in major US newspapers over the same period cast deep doubt on these widely accepted facts.
The study also cites ExxonMobil calculations that capping global warming at under 2C – the goal enshrined in the landmark Paris climate accord – would impose sharp limits on the amount of fossil fuels that could be burned, and thus potentially affect the firm’s growth.
Both findings are relevant to ongoing investigations by state and federal attorneys general, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission, on whether the company deceived investors on how it accounts for climate change risk.
The new study was published on Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Earlier reporting by InsideClimate News unearthed the internal documents and came to much the same conclusion.
In response, the company – the largest and most powerful oil producer in the United States, with revenue of $218bn last year – denied having led a four-decade disinformation campaign.
Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri called the latest study “inaccurate and preposterous” and said the researchers’ goal was to undermine the company’s reputation at the expense of its shareholders. “Our statements have been consistent with our understanding of climate science,” he said.
Exxon Mobil published a rebuttal that accused the journalists of taking Exxon’s statements out of context. “Read the documents InsideClimate News cites that purportedly prove some conspiracy on ExxonMobil’s part to hide our climate science findings,” the company wrote, providing links to a 10-page bibliography and the documents Inside Climate News obtained.