Exxon Knew About Climate Change Years Before Public (and Helped Cover it Up)

Similar to cigarette companies attempting to cover up the science on their products’ link to cancer, it turns out that ExxonMobil knew about the dangers of climate change years before the rest of the world. A former long-time scientist for Exxon revealed that the company was discussing the issue all the way back in 1981… and then chose to ignore the mounting problem.

It’s obviously a tricky situation for the world’s largest oil corporation. From a human being perspective, the responsible thing to do would be to discontinue a product that puts the earth on a course for destruction. From a business perspective, though, acknowledging that climate change is real and threatening would have an impact on profits, so as long as it’s kept a secret from the general public, no one can complain.

However, even if it wasn’t Exxon’s responsibility to shut down its operations and educate the world, it didn’t have to attempt to obscure a necessary truth. According to Greenpeace, since the 1980s, Exxon has spent over $30 million on organizations and “scientists” who helped to spread climate change denial. That’s a bogus move on the part of a company that was ahead of the curve on the impact of global warming.

The admission of knowledge came from Lenny Bernstein, a longtime climate expert for Exxon. Back in the 1980s, Exxon was exploring the possibility of collecting natural resources from Indonesia’s Natuna gas fields. However, scientists correctly identified that the gas in this area is 70 percent carbon dioxide, and would therefore be more harmful gas than most to emit into the air. Although “global warming” didn’t even reach the public consciousness until the late 1980s, Exxon already had an understanding of the lasting impacts of releasing too much carbon.

Perhaps we should give the company some credit: Exxon elected not to move forward with the Natuna project. Whether or not the carbon knowledge was a factor in this decision is unclear, but the world would be in even worse shape if the high-carbon Natuna gas were to be burned.

Still, that doesn’t completely make up for the fact that Exxon played a role in convincing the global public to remain ignorant to the issue for so long. Since properly addressing climate change is a battle against time at this point, having those extra years could have come in handy.

After Bernstein’s revelation, ExxonMobil released a statement saying that the company now agrees that climate change is a risk to the planet and is not currently funding climate change denialism. The spokesperson, Richard Keil, added, “The science in 1981 on this subject was in the very, very early days and there was considerable division of opinion. There was nobody you could have gone to in 1981 or 1984 who would have said whether it was real or not. Nobody could provide a definitive answer.”

Admittedly, it’s understandable that Exxon might be skeptical of just how catastrophic climate change is. At this point, however, the scientific consensus is overwhelming, and Exxon continues its quest for oil anyway. Finally “acknowledging” climate change means little if the company continues to choose profit over addressing these dangers. Corporations are destroying the planet, and ExxonMobil is leading the charge.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

114 comments

Patty L.
Patty L1 years ago

shared. Right -Wing Fanatics and Corporations are KILLING our Planet!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret G2 years ago

Can anyone tell me how to contact Care2 to find out why it is no longer possible for me to use 100 butterflies to save 1000 square feet of rain forest?

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

Unforgivable.Fraud.Make them pay.Hound them and fine them till they pay restitution,go into alternative power or go out of business.

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Tina M.
Tina M2 years ago

Oil companies saw the writing on the wall a long time ago. It is not the public's problem that oil companies did not diversify into other forms of energy. Now their product will become obsolete. They of course will try to acquire as much money as possible before that happens.

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 2 years ago

I have no trust in any oil company, especially after BP destroyed our Gulf of Mexico due to their incompetence!!! Burns me up!! Thanks for sharing.

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

I've always hated them.I will never understand when companies or people suspect that something is bad for the friggin' world, why not spend your money on solar and alternative energy and get ahead of the curve? Be a hero-not a zero.

Why Exxon,BP,All you frackers, oil fuel trains,Congressmen pouting, and billionaires billing? Why? It makes no economic sense. You destroy the planet and have no backup plan?

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Anne F.
Anne F2 years ago

Exxon should face up to the end of the corporation's existence

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Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 2 years ago

In Banks We Trust.
Thank you :)

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Lawrence Dsouza
Lawrence D2 years ago

Corporates need to accountable for profits as well as the environment.

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