Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Dr. Willie Soon; The US House of Representatives is apparently being told that the green energy revolution is so fragile, an oil company which expressed a few doubts was enough to derail climate action for decades.
Tracing Big Oil’s PR war to delay action on climate change
BY Alvin Powell Harvard Staff Writer
DATE September 28, 2021
Harvard researchers chart evolution from denial to misdirection as House inquiry widens
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee earlier this month widened its inquiry into the oil industry’s role in fostering doubt about the role of fossil fuels in causing climate change. A letter from the panel to Darren Woods, ExxonMobil chief executive, said lawmakers were “concerned that to protect … profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.” The Gazette spoke with Geoffrey Supran, a research fellow in the History of Science, who, together with Naomi Oreskes, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science, published a series of studies in recent years, the most recent one in May, on the climate communications of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies.
GAZETTE: Tell me about your research on the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading climate disinformation.
SUPRAN: In 2017, I and Naomi Oreskes published a series of three papers focused on what you might call traditional climate-science denial by ExxonMobil. Then, in May of this year, we shifted gears slightly, releasing a new study looking at the company’s more subtle forms of climate propaganda.
GAZETTE: What kinds of issues do you suspect the House committee will find?
SUPRAN: In 2017, our research was the first peer-reviewed analysis of ExxonMobil’s 40-year history of climate-change communications. And what we discovered was that there were systematic discrepancies between, on the one hand, what Exxon and ExxonMobil scientists said about climate-science privately and in academic circles, versus what Exxon, Mobil, and ExxonMobil said to the general public in The New York Times and elsewhere. That analysis showed that ExxonMobil misled the public about basic climate science and its implications. They did so by contributing quietly to climate science, and loudly to promoting doubt about that science.
Our work and others’ in that area provides evidence for the committee, demonstrating ExxonMobil’s long history of attacking science and scientists in order to undermine and delay climate action. Our more recent work, this May, is an evolution of that study in that it focuses on how, beyond outright disinformation, ExxonMobil has used language to subtly but systematically shape the way the public thinks about climate change, often in misleading ways. That study demonstrates how the company has selectively emphasized some terms and topics in public while consistently avoiding others.
The takeaway message across all of our work is that over and over, ExxonMobil has misled the public about climate change by telling the public one thing and then saying and doing the opposite behind closed doors. Our latest work shows that while their tactics have evolved from outright, blatant climate denial to more subtle forms of lobbying and propaganda, their end goal remains the same. And that’s to stop action on climate change.
So what did Exxon actually know?
Judge for yourself. The following is the 1982 Glaser Report, an internal document prepared for Exxon management, which is commonly cited by “Exxon knew” conspiracy theorists (original document source Inside Climate News).
“There is currently no unambiguous evidence that the earth is warming. If the earth is on a warming trend, we’re not likely to detect it before 1995. This is about the earliest projection of when the temperature might rise the 0.5° needed to get beyond the range of normal temperature fluctuations. On the other hand, if climate modelling uncertainties have exaggerated the temperature rise, it is possible that a carbon dioxide induced “greenhouse effect” may not be detected until 2020 at the earliest”.
Imagine you were an Exxon executive in 1982 reading a statement like that. Would you have a) hit the panic button and explained to shareholders you were going to close the company, or b) regarded Glaser 1982 as an interesting scientific document, of little importance to current operations?
At the bottom of Page 5, Glaser 1982 provides advice on the appropriate response;
Overall, the current outlook suggests potentially serious climate problems are not likely to occur until the late 21st century, or perhaps beyond at projected energy demand rates. This should provide time to remove uncertainties regarding the overall carbon cycle and the contribution of fossil fuel combustion as well as the roles of the oceans as a reservoir for both heat and carbon dioxide. It should also allow time to better define the effect of carbon dioxide and other infrared absorbing gases on surface climate. Making significant changes in energy consumption patterns now to deal with this potential problem amid all the scientific uncertainties would be premature in view of the severe impact such moves could have on the world’s economies and societies.
Charges against Exxon that they concealed knowledge of dangerous climate change are clearly false.
Exxon executives received an indication there might be a problem with global warming in the future, but the picture was confused. Some internal reports took an alarmist position, others like Glaser 1982 suggested immediate action would be premature, that the case for immediate action was weak.
Executives had to make a decision based on competing viewpoints, so they chose the more conservative viewpoint. That is what senior executives in a major company do.
Internal documents like Glaser mostly provided a review of existing public domain scientific knowledge, so the charge that Exxon was concealing something is absurd. The information Glaser summarised in the internal document was public knowledge. Glaser just put existing public knowledge together into a neat document, and supplied an opinion as to the best interpretation of that knowledge.
Glaser advised Exxon it was premature to do do anything radical to address global warming – so Exxon executives chose to follow Glaser’s advice.
Lets not forget, 1982, when Glaser wrote the review for Exxon, was just nine years after the 1973 oil crisis. Exxon executives in 1982 would have felt a strong sense of duty to ensure the reliable supply of oil, to prevent anything like the 1973 oil crisis from ever happening again.
Glaser 1982 advice that climate change might not be a problem to date has been vindicated – nothing bad is happening to the global climate. Even NASA says the world is greening. Observational evidence to date suggests anthropogenic CO2 is good for plant life and food production. The only indication anthropogenic CO2 might not be a good thing is a bunch of defective computer models which have never demonstrated useful predictive skill.
Even today, climate scientists cannot tell us if we have a problem. NASA GISS director Gavin Schmidt recently admitted his climate models are running implausibly hot, and stated that climate scientists cannot just keep ignoring the problem.
… But as climate scientists face this alarming reality, the climate models that help them project the future have grown a little too alarmist. Many of the world’s leading models are now projecting warming rates that most scientists, including the modelmakers themselves, believe are implausibly fast. In advance of the U.N. report, scientists have scrambled to understand what went wrong and how to turn the models, which in other respects are more powerful and trustworthy than their predecessors, into useful guidance for policymakers. “It’s become clear over the last year or so that we can’t avoid this,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. …
Renewable energy, the “climate action” most Exxon Knew conspiracy theorists advocate, is a hopelessly flawed solution to a problem which only exists in the output of deeply flawed climate models. Even some greens are recoiling in horror at the wholesale destruction of natural wildernesses which occurs when the renewable entrepreneurs move in.
As the renewable revolution haemorrhages support, and as government attempts to embrace renewables causes very public catastrophic power outages in California, Texas, Britain and even China, remaining advocates desperately need a smokescreen to try to distract the public from the increasingly blatant evidence that renewable energy is a total failure.
Stepping up baseless attacks on Exxon and other oil giants in my opinion is part of a political last ditch stand by the few remaining advocates of the failed green energy revolution
via Watts Up With That?
September 29, 2021 at 08:49PM