Monday, September 21, 2015

Good read of Inside Climate News: Exxon: The Road not taken

Inside Climate News has an interesting 3 part (1 still to come) story on how Exxon was once on the forefront of climate science. Its researchers underwrote during the late 1970s the consensus on climate change: That the burning of fossil fuels were a major cause of increased CO2 in the atmosphere and that this would result in rising global temperatures.

Based on this analysis, Exxon set up a major research effort to further understand how this really came to be, for instance, investigating the role of oceans in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, and the role of deforestation in contributing CO2 levels.

The business case of the research was clearly presented as understanding the implications for the firm at a very long time horizon. The conclusion that Exxon might have to change from being an oil and gas company to diversify away towards renewable and sustainable energy sources was already suggested.

This is then contrasted to Exxon's later activities in sponsoring climate sceptic and denial organisations.

The story is an interesting read, but after part 2 I'm still left wondering where, when and why the decision was taken to depart from having the best knowledge on the climate towards presenting exactly the opposite. Perhaps in the third part, to be published soon.

See also the piece on PBS Frontline.

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