Tag Archives: exxon mobil

“Shell knew.” The big oil company was aware of the effects of climate change since at least 1991

A new, previously unreleased film has emerged, revealing that big oil company Shell was aware of what they called the “catastrophic effects of climate change.”

A snippet from the video. You can watch the whole thing below.

Shell knew

It’s not like oil companies are oblivious to the effects of their activity. Some of the world’s best geologists are working in corporations like Shell or Exxon — and these companies invest a lot in science. It’s just that they don’t always make their findings public and they don’t always act on what they find. After all, profit is a hard incentive to ignore.

The video has resurfaced thanks to research from Jelmer Mommers of the Dutch blog The Correspondent, after which it was picked up by Damian Carrington of the Guardian. The film, shot in 1991, paints our current situation with disturbing accuracy. It talks about the negative effects of fracking (which has since become a mainstream technology), increased floods, and the social change which will accompany the climate change. Shell’s 28-minute film is ominously called Climate of Concern, and was particularly aimed at schools and universities. However, it was never made public until now.

Ironically, it starts discussing the need for climate studies — something that the fossil fuel lobby is trying to sweep under the rug for years.

“Research of this kind is being stepped up worldwide. The need to understand the interplay of atmosphere and oceans has been given a new sense of urgency by the realization that our energy-consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes, with adverse consequences or us all.”

Does that sound familiar? It’s what researchers have been saying for years and years, with growing urgency. Yet the US just elected a president and an administration which promised to U-turn on all climate action. But it gets even better, as the video emphasizes the negative effects that everyone will suffer:

“If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected,” it says. “Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”

To top it all off, the film also lauds existing renewable energy sources — which in 1991, were much less efficient than the ones we have access to today.

It’s not like Shell was alone, they weren’t the only ones to figure out what was happening. As I was saying before, there are many good scientists working in oil companies — and Exxon could easily claim the top spot here. The largest private oil company and the third largest company in the world invests heavily into research. They’ve done so for decades, and it paid off… sort of. Exxon knew that climate change was happening since the 70s. A 2015 investigation showed that despite knowing about global warming years before it became a public issue, they chose to fund people to simply deny the problem instead of coming out publicly.

Exxon is currently under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorney generals for allegedly misleading investors about the risks climate change posed to its business. Much like Shell, Exxon too chose to focus on profits instead of doing what was right. The strategy of the two companies is similar in the long run: make a whole lot of money, invest a small part of it into renewables or some sort of clean technology and have all your spokespeople say how “green” you are. Save your face. In the meantime, invest more of it into lobby to push forth your agenda. Keep pumping oil and making more money. It works, the oil industry arguably has a stronger voice than ever. Have you seen the new US Secretary of State? Meet Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil.

Just 90 companies are responsible for 60% of all man made global warming emissions – Exxon, Chevron and BP lead the way

The climate crisis we are facing right now (which for one reason or another many people choose to ignore) has largely been caused by only 90 companies – which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the industrial revolution, new research suggests. The study was found that almost all these companies worked in oil, gas or coal.

Climate change and private companies

Oil field owned by BP. Image via The Guardian.

This was the most ambitious effort to hold individual carbon producers, rather than governments, to account.

“There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world,” climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado said. “But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.”

To make the entire situation even more worrying, the study also concludes that half of all emissions were produced just in the last 25 years, well past the date when governments and corporations became aware that greenhouse emissions were directly correlated with global warming, and should have started doing something to prevent the situation we’re in today. So if anything, we’re emitting more and more in recent years.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that if things continue to move in this direction, the world stands within 30 years of exhausting its “carbon budget” – the amount of CO2 we can emit without warming the planet with 2 degrees Celsius. But what this study really does is show that the burden of fighting against this dramatic situation shouldn’t fall on governments alone – a big part of the blame is carried by privately held companies, so therefore, they should also start doing something, before it gets totally out of hand.

“This study is a crucial step forward in our understanding of the evolution of the climate crisis. The public and private sectors alike must do what is necessary to stop global warming,” former vice-president explained. “Those who are historically responsible for polluting our atmosphere have a clear obligation to be part of the solution.”

90 companies to rule them all

bp chevron exxon

Image credits.

It’s quite surprising that out of the myriad of companies in the world that existed since the industrial revolution, 90 of them are responsible for 63% of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide (914 gigatonne CO2) and methane between 1751 to 2010 – that’s an incredibly small number, that shows the huge scale that these companies are working at. Out of the 90, 83 were energy companies producing oil, gas and coal. The remaining seven were cement manufacturers – another industry that’s a major contributor to greenhouse emissions.

What’s interesting is that only 31 of the companies that made the list were state-owned companies such as Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Gazprom and Norway’s Statoil. Another 9 were government run industries – coal producing companies from China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland.

Cement producing facility. Image via NY Times.

But 50 companies, more than half, are private, investor owned. Names that may strike you as familiar, such as Chevron, Exxon, BP , and Royal Dutch Shell, British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton unsurprisingly pop up on the list.

ChevronTexaco was the leading private held greenhouse emitter, causing 3.5% of greenhouse gas emissions to date, with Exxon not far behind at 3.2% and BP at 2.5%. In between them, the 3 companies almost add up to 10% of all the greenhouse gases ever produced on Earth.

Furthermore, this research showed that we shouldn’t only blame it on the rich countries.

“It seemed like maybe this could break the logjam,” said Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard. “There are all kinds of countries that have produced a tremendous amount of historical emissions that we do not normally talk about. We do not normally talk about Mexico or Poland or Venezuela. So then it’s not just rich v poor, it is also producers v consumers, and resource rich v resource poor.”

Accountability? What accountability?

As bad as the general situation is, there are still many things that can be done – but everything has to start with companies becoming accountable (in a serious way) for their greenhouse emissions.

“What I think could be a game changer here is the potential for clearly fingerprinting the sources of those future emissions,” said Michael Mann, a contributor to the study. “It increases the accountability for fossil fuel burning. You can’t burn fossil fuels without the rest of the world knowing about it.”

Here’s an awesome, interactive pie chart from the Guardian depicting the findings from the study.

The research was published in the journal Climatic Change.

Scientific Reference: Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010. Richard Heede

Exxon CEO: ‘What Good Is It To Save The Planet If Humanity Suffers?’

“Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” – seems to be the motto at big oil companies. At Wednesday’s meeting for ExxonMobil shareholders in Dallas, CEO Rex Tillerson told participants that the economy is currently relying on oil, and that will not change anytime soon. He concluded that cutting down on carbon emissions would do no good.

“What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

exxon mobil

Well, I think I have a good answer: how about the survival of the human species as we know it – avoiding a change of climate which will lead to the death of millions? It’s pretty weird that Tillerson, who is an Eagle Scout (the highest attainable rank in the boy scouts), missed all the rampant ecological destruction that caused the loss of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and displaced millions of people. Maybe the drought that threatens to cause a global water shortage in just a few decades – and that is if carbon emissions remain the same, and not increase (which they are, at the moment).

Exxon does not see carbon emissions falling until 2040. If this is the case, we’re in for heat waves, drought, water shortage, food insecurity, storms, sea level rises, and so much more! As a matter of fact, they’re so adamant on not seeing carbon emissions drop that they’re funding research to deny climate change. No, really! 9 out of 10 climate denial studies are funded by Exxon Mobil.

A Carbon Disclosure Project Report noted that:

“ExxonMobil noted that the company’s ‘operations around the world include remote and offshore areas that present challenges from existing climate extremes and storms. These severe weather events may disrupt supplies or interrupt the operations of ExxonMobil facilities.’ ”

So, as Think Progress puts it, what mister Tillerson probably wanted to say is

“What good is it to save humanity if profits suffer?”

Why is Exxon doing this? Because, of course, it’s a win-win situation. For now, they get to sell all the oil and hydrocarbon products, and as the resource go scarcer and scarcer, they get to sell more unconventional resources (ahem, shale gas); and to add even more to the pie, as climate conditions get more dramatic, they will have other engineering solutions to sell.

”As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”

For the seventh time, about three quarters of Exxon shareholders voted down a resolution that would require the company to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from using Exxon products. Oh, they also voted down a resolution that would ban discrimination against homosexuals.

Big oil companies pay to eliminate environmental laws

Exxon and Koch, two of the biggest oil companies in the business are paying to write state legislation repealing climate change laws. According to tax records and other materials acquired by Bloomberg News, not only Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries are involved in this business, but also numerous other companies which have every interest to keep global warming under the carpet in various states around the US.

Basically, they are working to dismantle environmental programs by becoming active in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which allows private-sector parties to “pay-to-play” – charging thousands of dollars to sit at the table with legislators and craft bills. The fact that they are allowing this kind of system isn’t exactly earth shattering news, but we are just beginning to find out just how much major companies have their hands on this game.

According to the report published by Bloomberg News, Exxon Mobil donated $39,000 to ALEC last year and the Koch Charitable Foundation donated $75,858 in 2009, the final year in which tax documents were available. Both companies, along with BP, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy helped draft legislation that has been introduced in Oregon, New Hampshire, Washington State and New Mexico designed to take those states out of regional cap and trade programs:

The eight-paragraph resolution, which was introduced in March, said “there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates” and “a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of carbon dioxide.”
The model resolution was adopted by ALEC’s Natural Resources task force in April 2010, according to minutes from the meeting obtained by Bloomberg.
The group drafting and endorsing it included 13 legislators from states including Texas, Kansas and Indiana and 21 private sector members representing companies such as Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries and BP Plc (BP/), and trade groups including American Electric Power, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy.

Spectacular. Big oil companies trying to deny climate change and stop environmental legislation; who would have guessed ?

Via ThinkProgress

9 out of 10 top climate change deniers linked with Exxon Mobil

In a world where accusations like this fly by like pigeons in the park, it was about time someone but some work into research before making a claim such as this one. This is not some unsubstantiated assertion, or some crazy scientist’s statement – this is backed up by numbers. Let’s look at the matter in depth.

Climate change and gas giants

Exxon Mobil is not only the world’s largest private oil company, but also one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world, having been ranked either #1 or #2 for the past 5 years. They are also (of course) denying climate change, and there has been a rumour going on that they have been paying or offering some kind of reward to researchers who also deny climate change. But until now this was only an unconfirmed rumour.

A recent analysis conducted by Carbon Brief investigated no less than 900 published papers, all of which cast doubts on climate change, or even speak against it. After concluding this investigation, they found that 9 out of 10 of the most prolific ones had some sort of connection with Exxon Mobil. You can find a link to these papers at the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The results showed that out of the 938 papers cited, 186 of them were written by only ten men, and foremost among them was Dr Sherwood B Idso, who personally authored 67 of them. Idso is the president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an ExxonMobil funded think tank. The second most prolific was Dr Patrick J Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, who receives roughly 40% of his funding from the oil industry.

This goes in parallel with the ‘work’ of the Koch industries; even though you probably haven’t heard of them, Koch industries is the second largest privately held company in the US, and in the past 50 years, they have invested more than 50.000.000 dollars in spreading doubts about climate change, according to Greenpeace.

An old tactic that sadly, keeps getting good results

The thing is, you don’t have to convince people that climate change isn’t happening – all you have to do is cast some doubt on that, and people will no longer be certain, and this is a strategy that has been successfully tested by tobacco companies, almost at the same level, and coffee companies, at a much lower level. Basically, you keep the public confused about the idea, and a confused public is much, much better than a public who is against you.

Other prolific authors of climate-change denying include Willie Soon, John R. Christy and Sallie L Baliunas who are all associated with the George C. Marshall Institute, whose website asserts that “…efforts to reach agreement on inferences about human influence on the climate system that can be drawn from science and policy prescriptions for addressing the climate change risk have been controversial.”.

Of course, in order to be totally (and more) correct, you have to give them the benefit of a doubt; but the numbers are extremely suggestive in this case. In addition to this extremely active group of climate change deniers, three extremely respected and esteemed researchers have individually complained that their research has been misinterpreted and/or miscited by climate change skeptics in order to bolster their own beliefs. CarbonBrief also contacted a few of them, and here’s what they got from Professor Peter deMenocal, of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, told the Carbon Brief when asked about the inclusion of his paper on the list:

“I’ve responded to similar queries over the years. No, this is not an accurate representation of my work and I’ve said so many times to them and in print.”I’ve asked Dennis Avery of the Heartland Institute to take my name off [another similar] list four times and I’ve never had a response. There are 15 other Columbia colleagues on there as well … and all want their names removed.”

The thing is, a significant amount of these studies don’t focus on human driven climate change, which is why it’s extremely easy to misquote their results. If you take for example an article written by Professor Richard Zeebe, University of Hawaii, you’d find an interesting conclusion: feedbacks such as increases in other greenhouse gases were responsible for a substantial part of global warming, alongside the direct impact of carbon dioxide. Here’s what Professor Zeebe had to say:

“Using our paper to support skepticism of anthropogenic global warming is misleading.”

This kind of papers contributes to the general scientific treasure of the world; it has to be said, Earth has had significant climate changes throughout it’s 4.5 billion year history, and we are still broadening our understanding about how these long term climate changes occur. It’s a delicate problem to separate these natural tendencies from the anthropic driven changes, mostly carbon emissions. But climate skeptics didn’t only misinterpret this.

A paper by Meehl et al, also placed on the list, discussed the effects of the 11 year solar cycle on the tropical Pacific. The author of the paper, Gerald Meehl, of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), said:

“It’s odd that our 2009 paper is on a site about global warming. Our paper addressed specifically the climate system response to the 11-year solar cycle. Thus it is about decadal timescale climate variability. “It said nothing about long-term warming trends, and in fact, in the last sentence of the paper, we state, ‘This response also cannot be used to explain recent global warming because the 11-year solar cycle has not shown a measurable trend over the past 30 years.'”.

Energy and Environment

So where does this lead us ? Let’s be fair.

There are a few researchers for which I have every bit of respect who are climate change skeptics; they wrote papers, they make some claims and back them up with scientific evidence, and overall, they greatly contribute to scientific progress. Richard Lindzen is one of them. Richard Muller is another great example – he set out to disprove human driven global warming, and surprisingly found data that backs it up. A great example of a researcher !

But what about the others, the one who get their funding from oil giants and then write dubious papers, misquoting other people’s work and misinforming the general public ? I may be out of line, but in my book, these are not researchers, they are puppets.

Let’s take a look at the citations given by the Energy and Environment journal, compared to the Journal of Climate, and you tell me which one is better (charts made by SCImago):

Citation statistics for Energy and Environment

Citation statistics for Journal of Climate



What does this tell us? CarbonBrief again puts it best:

It’s clear that E&E’s papers are cited relatively infrequently – suggesting the inclusion of a substantial number of them on the ‘900+’ list does not demonstrate widespread disagreement with the scientific consensus on climate change, but rather that these views are confined to a small climate skeptic lobby.

Via CarbonBrief