The Exxon Lie

This is Number8 in our Climate Change series, articles culled from international publications. Readers of the Grousist’s regular auto industry articles – stopped during Covid – will know I have a love-hate relationship with the car. For ever advantage the personal chariot and the workhorse wheels have brought to humankind, it created ten regressive or destructive measures, and thousands of deaths.

Walkways began when primitive humans found a way to get from A to B to forage afar for food by the straightest route. Over the centuries those paths turned into carriage ruts, and with the Roman’ help, cobbled streets and finally motorways. Once cars were invents the concreting of the planet began in earnest, swathes of good arable land often trapped between motorway lanes. The auto industry and oil giants generated big money, and big money talked to governments and to alter government policy that suited the oil giants and the automobile industry.

We went mad, producing too many cars, too many roads, and thinking the combustion engine only needed sustained development to remain the best means of propulsion, travelling man’s best friend, the noiser the engine the more macho you were, unless rich and could afford a Rolls-Royce. The resultant destruction of our planet and air we know all too well. Oil tanker spills were countered by cosy documentaries of sea birds and furry mammals saved from oil asphyxiation, the films paid for by oil companies as a PR exercise.

The oil industry is a dirty industry, not just for dealership mechanics to work on, but as a business it’s invariably corrupt. No shock, then, to learn Exxon – Esso in the UK – knew what would happen to the planet decades ago, kept their projections quiet, and immediately set about well organised and expensive propaganda saying the opposite. The Oil company drove some of the leading science of the era only to publicly dismiss global heating. (Words highlighted in blue link to background information.)

In a nutshell, by their deceit, Exxon delayed the intallation of wind power and more. Whether or not the company or any executive of it will be taken to the courts is debateable. Now read on…..


The oil giant Exxon privately “predicted global warming correctly and skilfully” only to then spend decades publicly rubbishing such science in order to protect its core business, new research has found. A trove of internal documents and research papers has previously established that Exxon knew of the dangers of global heating from at least the 1970s, with other oil industry bodies knowing of the risk even earlier, from around the 1950s. They forcefully and successfully mobilized against the science to stymie any action to reduce fossil fuel use.

A new study, however, has made clear that Exxon’s scientists were uncannily accurate in their projections from the 1970s onwards, predicting an upward curve of global temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions that is close to matching what actually occurred as the world heated up at a pace not seen in millions of years.

Exxon scientists predicted there would be global heating of about 0.2C a decade due to the emissions of planet-heating gases from the burning of oil, coal and other fossil fuels. The new analysis, published in Science, finds that Exxon’s science was highly adept and the “projections were also consistent with, and at least as skillful as, those of independent academic and government models”.

Geoffrey Supran, whose previous research of historical industry documents helped shed light on what Exxon and other oil firms knew, said it was “breathtaking” to see Exxon’s projections line up so closely with what subsequently happened.

“This really does sum up what Exxon knew, years before many of us were born,” said Supran, who led the analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “We now have the smoking gun showing that they accurately predicted warming years before they started attacking the science. These graphs confirm the complicity of what Exxon knew and how they misled.”

The research analyzed more than 100 internal documents and peer-reviewed scientific publications either produced in-house by Exxon scientists and managers, or co-authored by Exxon scientists in independent publications between 1977 and 2014. (See graph at foot of article.)

The analysis found that Exxon correctly rejected the idea the world was headed for an imminent ice age, which was a possibility mooted in the 1970s, instead predicting that the planet was facing a “carbon dioxide induced ‘super-interglacial’”. Company scientists also found that global heating was human-influenced and would be detected around the year 2000, and they predicted the “carbon budget” for holding the warming below 2C above pre-industrial times.

Armed with this knowledge, Exxon embarked upon a lengthy campaign to downplay or discredit what its own scientists had confirmed. As recently as 2013, Rex Tillerson, then chief executive of the oil company, said that the climate models were “not competent” and that “there are uncertainties” over the impact of burning fossil fuels.

“What they did was remain silent while doing this work and only when it became strategically necessary to manage the existential threat to their business did they stand up and speak out against the science. They could have endorsed their science rather than deny it. It would have been a much harder case to deny it if the king of big oil was actually backing the science rather than attacking it.”

Climate scientists said the new study highlighted an important chapter in the struggle to address the climate crisis. “It is very unfortunate that the company not only did not heed the implied risks from this information, but rather chose to endorse non-scientific ideas instead to delay action, likely in an effort to make more money,” said Natalie Mahowald, a climate scientist at Cornell University.

Mahowald said the delays in action aided by Exxon had “profound implications” because earlier investments in wind and solar could have averted current and future climate disasters. “If we include impacts from air pollution and climate change, their actions likely impacted thousands to millions of people adversely,” she added.

Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University, said the new study was a “detailed, robust analysis” and that Exxon’s misleading public comments about the climate crisis were “especially brazen” given their scientists’ involvement in work with outside researchers in assessing global heating. Shindell said it was hard to conclude that Exxon’s scientists were any better at this than outside scientists, however.

The new work provided “further amplification” of Exxon’s misinformation, said Robert Brulle, an environment policy expert at Brown University who has researched climate disinformation spread by the fossil fuel industry.

“I’m sure that the ongoing efforts to hold Exxon accountable will take note of this study,” Brulle said, a reference to the various lawsuits aimed at getting oil companies to pay for climate damages.

NOTE: Thanks go to writer Oliver Milman in New York. He is the environment correspondent at Guardian US. He covers the climate crisis, as well as issues involving biodiversity and the impacts of air and water pollution, for the Guardian and has repeatedly exposed corporate and government wrongdoing through his work.


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4 Responses to The Exxon Lie

  1. Thank you Gareth. Readers will find of related interest the following article by Craig Murray (28 April 2022) –

    « Texaco operations in Ecuador from 1962 to 1994 dumped 70 billion litres of “wastewater”, heavily contaminated with oil and other chemicals, into the Amazon rainforest, plus over 650,000 barrels of crude oil. They polluted over 800,000 hectares. It is one of the worst ecological disasters in history — 30 times greater than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and 85 times greater than the Gulf of Mexico spill by British Petroleum (BP) in 2010. During the supposed clean up in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana, before it left Ecuador, Texaco hid over a thousand different swamps of of toxic waste throughout the rainforests, dumping a layer of topsoil over them. »

  2. lorncal says:

    I think that, as a species, we have to accept that our own species will, if left to its own devices, utterly destroy the environment. I also think that we are not going to either wean the West, and other parts, off consumption or prevent the poorer parts of the world from taking measures to enrich themselves at the expense of the environment. We can introduce measures to slow down the impact, but we really have to look elsewhere for salvation. That will require pouring funds into scientific endeavours to mitigate the worst elements of planet destruction: into research to off-set climate damage, environmental damage, loss of habitat, loss of other species, birth control, mass education, particularly of females, managed career change and retraining without loss of financial and social support, etc.

    Otherwise, the billionaires who are creating all this planet damage will pour their money into not just fleecing us, but into finding ways to escape the Earth and leaving the rest of us to die. We have to accept that, while forging ahead might well be a human trait, those who tend to do most of the forging also tend to be sociopaths and psychopaths who have no empathy with humankind as a whole. They view us as existing simply to service their needs and desires and use their massive wealth to influence governments and policy in order to maximise their own power and wealth at our expense, all with the blessing of stupid and colluding politicians who are in it for the short-term gain to themselves. Until we get to the point where we value all human endeavour, and not just the utterly selfish machinations of these elites, we are in for a very transient future.

    Recognising them for what they are, and, in turn, acknowledging that they might well serve an evolutionary purpose by driving forward human society, we need to be able to control them and their narrow field of vision – completely self-orientated. The lack of this kind of control over very dangerous people in our midst is what has been missing. We seem unable to use them to our own advantage as a species – not to destroy our species, but to help it, with other species, to survive reasonably well without consuming every last particle of the planet on which we live. Basically, the way that men, as a sex class, operate – and it is not all men, by any means, but it is mainly alpha males who hold the reins of power and wealth and influence – is destroying our world, and the attempts in every part of the globe now, to force women out of public life, will almost certainly herald the end of our species.

    Again, we can see, if we look, that it is the same elites of male power and wealth and influence that are doing this – because females are the necessary balance that societies require to exist harmoniously with nature. Ordinary men, not part of the elites, get to treat women like slaves, not have to compete with them and can use them as a sexual commodity. That is their reward for being wilfully blind to the excesses of their overlords. It has worked well for at least two millennia, but it cannot work for much longer without the slow, but sure, death of the planet. What we should be worrying about is that Mother Nature does not tolerate human arrogance – mainly male human arrogance – without a murmur, and we may yet find that she has been pushed too far. Removing the human species by means of catastrophes and disasters of nature itself might well be her answer to the problem.

  3. greig12 says:

    It’s the complete lack of logic, common sense or survival instinct that puzzles me. These people all had/have children but they continue along paths that will put them in jeopardy. Doesn’t every parent want to leave a better world for their progeny? Obviously not. Are we so shallow as a species that we live in the now, reap the benefits and fuck future generations? It beggars belief.

    If I had a tin foil hat I could look upon this behaviour as terra-forming. For whom would then be the question.🤔

  4. lorncal says:

    greig12: I think most of us feel so overwhelmed by what needs to be done that we are stuck in a sort of ‘rabbits in the headlights’ scenario. It is a distinct lack of balance in those traits that take us forward and those that keep our heads out of the clouds that is now in the ascendancy. It is not hard to see how the traits those billionaires and corporatists can actually be beneficial, but, when they are allowed to gain a significance way beyond their actual value to humankind as a whole, and assume a very narrow, tunnel-like focus on making more money than any human being could conceivably spend in one lifetime, more power than any one human being should ever be allowed to accumulate and more influence than is healthy for our societies if they are to survive long-term, then we are going wrong somewhere.

    It is as if all the traditional ‘male traits’ have suddenly been deemed crucial, while the balancing traits of females (and I’m not trying to claim that females are inherently better human beings, just more invested in long-term and communal traits for obvious reasons) are being sidelined. If either all ‘male traits’ or all ‘female traits’ are allowed to predominate, we are in trouble. To date, ‘male traits’ have dominated to the detriment of balance, and we are left with a world that is beginning to look decidedly short-term for our own species and for other species, not to mention the flora on this planet. This latest, new assault on what females bring to the table – remembering that females are just as intelligent as males – bodes ill for our future.

    Quite apart from the self-evident reasons for the binary, reproduction and the perpetuation of the species, others exist, too. It can be no accident that females are as intelligent as males, though sometimes in different ways, because Nature simply does not do accidental in the sense that there are no explanations: there are always explanations, and, often, we find that out only when we have stupidly destroyed something or taken something out of the species chain. Men, no doubt, had to be what we now call ‘dominant’ in early times in order to have the strength to hunt and protect; it would have been they who treated with other groups to barter and trade. Women, however, foraged for fruits and nuts to supplement the group’s diet, brought up that group’s next generation and laboured to make footwear and clothes, blankets and other domestic necessities and comforts.

    I think it is reasonable to assume that male and female in early times led balanced lives and had well-defined roles that required both to have intelligence in order that the whole group might survive. In the higher primate societies, our nearest cousins, scientists have often observed that it is a female who discovers new ways to forage for food, to keep warm, etc., in ways that are not detrimental to their environment, and pass these new ways on to their offspring and other members of the group, yet, in many of our human societies, females are frequently regarded as inferior to men and deliberately kept out of public life. When this became the norm, we do not know, but in societies where this is extreme (our own used to be, and, relatively speaking, has only recently changed for the better) that society will almost certainly be poor and uneducated, with the mass of the population being illiterate and living in poverty. That, in turn, will lead to mass exodus of populations seeking a better life, wars over resources and death and destruction.

    Now, I believe that the desire by an alpha male elite to dominate economics, politics, big business, international trade, corporatism, high finance, and so on without regard to the consequences, is leading to a new onslaught against female rights and their spaces in order to force them back into the home and to allow these men to ‘rape’ the planet unopposed. Women stand in their way. Parallel to that, our world is continuing to disintegrate before our eyes as more and more ‘natural’ disasters and catastrophes accumulate, the result of unregulated activities that are unsustainable, and, simply, Mother Nature herself, who will not, in the end, be gainsaid. If females are forced out of the public realm and if new ways are not found to mitigate the follies we continue to compound by ever-more-greedy theft of resources without a parallel replacement through science and technology, through biodiversity and sustainability, that belong to all of us, not the few, I think we will reach tipping point where we cannot undo the damage. The Earth will continue to its natural end, but without us.

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