January 12, 2023 – Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, climate models used internally by ExxonMobil’s own scientists accurately projected and skillfully modeled global warming due to fossil fuel burning and produced results that were consistent with independent academic and government climate models at the time, according to a new Review. Although it has been widely reported that Exxon has known about the threat of global warming since the 1970s, “this study is the first quantitative review of the company’s early climate science,” according to a related press release included in the press package.
Internal documents disclosed in 2015 have suggested that ExxonMobil scientists have informed company executives about dangerous human-driven climate warming since at least 1977. However, while the text of these documents has been examined in detail, far less attention has been given to numerical and graphical data in these documents related to explicit projections of future warming.
In this Review, Geoffrey Supran and colleagues systematically evaluated the accuracy of ExxonMobil’s internal climate modeling projections – some of the most abundant and robust in the industry – and compared their performance against academic and government models. Supran et al. analyzed 32 internal documents produced by ExxonMobil scientists between 1977 and 2002 and 72 peer-reviewed scientific publications authored or coauthored by ExxonMobil scientists between 1982 and 2014 – a dataset that constitutes all publicly available internal documents and research publications disclosed by the company.
According to the findings, the climate projections reported by ExxonMobil scientists during this period were accurate in predicting subsequent global climate warming, suggesting that the company understood as much about climate change as academic and government scientists did, despite their active efforts to sow uncertainty and doubt. “These findings corroborate and add quantitative precision to assertions by scholars, journalists, lawyers, politicians, and others that ExxonMobil accurately foresaw the threat of human-caused global warming, both prior and parallel to orchestrating lobbying and propaganda campaigns to delay climate action, and refute claims by ExxonMobil Corp and its defenders that these assertions are incorrect,” write Supran et al.
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