ExxonMobil has knowingly misled the public for decades about the danger climate change poses to a warming world and the oil giant’s long-term viability, according to a peer-reviewed study.

There’s peer reviewed and peer reviewed of course.

“Using social science methods, we found a gaping, systematic discrepancy between what Exxon said about climate change in private and academic circles, and what is said to the public.”


As early as 1979, when climate change barely registered as an issue for the public, Exxon was sounding internal alarms.

“The most widely held theory is that… the increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to fossil fuel combustion,” an internal memo from that year read.

A peer-reviewed study by Exxon scientists 17 years later concluded that “the body of evidence… now points towards a discernable human influence on global climate”.

At the same time, however, the company was spending tens of millions of dollars to place editorials in the New York Times and other influential newspapers that delivered a very different message.

“Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil,” Exxon said in 1997, as the Bill Clinton administration faced overwhelming opposition in Congress to US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

It’s entirely possible that all three statements are true you know. That climate change is true, happening, and also that overturning the entire global economy isn’t a good idea….

Or as is true more generally, that something needs to be done does not mean that it is this thing which needs to be done.

31 thoughts on “Gosh!”

  1. Social scientists are experts in climate change.
    In the same way my dog is an expeert in anatomy, as he likes bones.

  2. Did this article fall out of the 1990s archive?

    Social Science Methods =

    1. Reading some documents
    2. Wilfully misunderstanding them
    3. Making a political point masquerading as science on the basis of them

    As you say, all those statements quoted are not exclusive.

    I don’t think the oil majors were virtuous about climate change issues, but it was an externality, not really their problem until it was made their problem. After all, the oil companies weren’t burning (most of) the oil, it was consumers who actually put the stuff in the atmosphere.

  3. The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the ‘social sciences’ is: some do, some don’t.
    Ernest Rutherford (Baron Rutherford of Nelson) 1871-1937

  4. Evidence is irrelevant. It’s all about chasing the weakest member of the herd down and then killing it. Hounds harass the quarry until it is exhausted and gives up the gift for life. The process repeats until the herd is thinned out or gone.

    Bandwagon chasing is another way of looking at it.

    Of course they seek to pin the blame on Exxon but looking at a different way – Exxon is to blame as they knew by carried on pumping oil – but that logic applies in spades to environmentalists who, unless they lead an ultra low carbon lifestyle as they demand of others, are equally guilty.

    Trump doesn’t play the game by the same rules interestingly enough. He seems to have survived harassment that would have brought down any normal politician who would have tried to answer the critics rather than just say they are wrong and say no more.

  5. I don’t think the oil majors were virtuous about climate change issues…

    You clearly don’t work for one. ExxonMobil held out for a while – not denying it, simply by commissioning their own studies which, probably reasonably, cast doubt on the “consensus” – but nowadays they’re all on board with all the gusto of a bypass protester. I sometimes have fun reminding people in meetings that we’re an oil company.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    From the abstract: “We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science—by way of its scientists’ academic publications—but promoted doubt about it in advertorials.”

    So anyone who was paying attention, like policy makers (ok, big assumption), would have known what was happening and been able to take it all in to account when formulating policy.

    Another silly season page filler for the Guardian, who didn’t even link to the paper or the journal that wrote it. They just lifted the AF piece which in itself looks like a press release by campaigners and designed to influence policymakers.

  7. I have (a little) skin in this game- some of my clients are oil (super)majors and the rest of them are involved in the supply chain in some way or another.

    All of them are doing things to reduce emissions and limit consumption. A certain (French) one is doing an absolutely sterling job in increasing the efficiency of it’s charter tanker fleet- it’s genuinely changed the nature of owner/charter relationships and Exxon (specifically, as I also know about this one) is looking to copy much of what the French mob are doing.

    But the point made above by Oblong stands: oil companies aren’t to blame for what Johnny Nobody chooses to burn in his 15year old Datsun.

  8. To Hell with all climate change cockrot.

    That oil companies should be pandering to these ecofreak leftist scum rather than standing up to the lying vermin shows why we are in the mess we are in.

  9. Oil companies, eh?

    They come over here with their gas, petrol & diesel, which allow us to heat our homes, cook our food, keep the wheels of industry turning, supply electricity to our hospitals, schools & offices, deliver food & medical supplies, have personal mobility & the ability to fly to different countries at low cost. They also supply the feedstock for a range of chemicals and pharmaceuticals which clothe us, help construct our buildings, keep pests from our crops, cure our diseases, alleviate our pain and keep us alive for longer and in better health.

    The CO2 their products produce has raised crop yields by at least 9%, and maybe as much as 30%.

    The pay taxes directly, and generate taxation on fuel use which allows governments to waste billions on failed IT projects, vanity trainlines , useless wind & solar installations and policing words on Twitter & Facebook.

    Not only that, but they don’t seem to raised the average global temperature (if you can get anyone to define what that is) by much, if at all. If the IPCC is right, and up to 2C temperature rise is net beneficial, I think they should try a bit harder.

    I suspect that oil companies, bastards all, have contributed a few billion per cent more towards human well-being that all the social ‘science’ lecturers ever.

  10. “Who doubts that climate change is happening?”

    I do. A one or two degree average temperature is NOT climate change. It would take a lot more to change the Köppen climate classification of most places.

    The Sahel does appear to be getting wetter. That’s it for climate change.

    Of course, “climate change” as used by the political/science crowd has nothing to do with the environment.

    ‘ExxonMobil has knowingly misled the public for decades about the danger climate change poses to a warming world and the oil giant’s long-term viability, according to a peer-reviewed study.’

    This crap is politics, not science.

  11. Knowing Me, Knowing Steve

    “Peer review” is about as trustworthy as Jeremy Kyle’s lie detector.

    It just means a bunch of crayon-haired SJW’ s and skinnyfat bugmen who’ve never had real jobs agree that you should be forced to live in a miserable carbon-neutral eco-yurt, drive a wind-powered car made out of damp cardboard and recycled pubic hair, and drink locally-sourced organic cat piss.

    I only listen to credible dreadlocked scientists, such as Dr. William L Connelly.

  12. John Square,

    You got lucky. Johnny Nobody could own a 15 year old Datsun, if it is a D22 pick-up, produced between May 2001 and October 2002 in Japan only. All other Datsuns are more than 30 years old.

  13. The Sahel does appear to be getting wetter. That’s it for climate change.

    So the wet zone has moved south at the massive rate of about 10 miles per century? Obviously, was rather difficult to spot as it transmitted through the Sahara.

  14. The climate change scare does have a basic credibility problem, doesn’t it? It’s impossible to discern any actual climate change outside the normal range of variability. All the, supposedly discernible changes are going on in places no-one ever goes to or cares very much about.
    Take sea level/salinity change. Which we’re told is happening. I’m sitting beside the Med, not far from Gib. The sea level in the Med is the result of a balance between inflow from the rivers/ rainfall on the sea/evaporation/the net inflow-outflow through the Straits. You’d expect that balance to be sensitive to climate change. Yet there’s been bugger all change in either levels or salinity since the Romans were around.

  15. Come to think of it, you’d expect any changes to be amplified again up in the Black Sea. Which is a cut-down Med feeding into the big one. But again, if you stand on the beach at Constanta it sure looks like it’s much the same as it’s always been.

  16. But that study by Naomi Oreskes gives as an example of Excon’s alleged duplicity… ‘Exxon scientist Henry Shaw at a 1984 Exxon/Esso environmental conference, which showed that Exxon’s expected ‘average temperature rise’ of 1.3 °C–3.1 °C was comparable to projections by leading research institutions (1.5 °C–4.5 °C)’

    Well that clearly was not misleading the public at a public conference – was it?

    But speaking of misleading the public, a climate doomster (Dr Gavin Scmidt) helpfully explains why climate ‘scientists’ prefer to use Temperature Anomalies… the difference between the current average temperature of a station, region, nation, or the globe and its long-term, 30-year base period, average… instead of simply showing a graph of the Absolute Global Average Temperature in Celsius or Kelvin.

    Here’s the Dr… “But think about what happens when we try and estimate the absolute global mean temperature for, say, 2016. The climatology for 1981-2010 is 287.4±0.5K, and the anomaly for 2016 is (from GISTEMP w.r.t. that baseline) 0.56±0.05ºC. So our estimate for the absolute value is (using the first rule shown above) is 287.96±0.502K, and then using the second that reduces to 288.0±0.5K [2016]. The same approach for 2015 gives 287.8±0.5K, and for 2014 it is 287.7±0.5K. All of which appear to be the same within the uncertainty. Thus we lose the ability to judge which year was the warmest if we only look at the absolute numbers.”

    So there you have it from an expert, global warming has been the same for all recent years and is unmeasurable, so a mathematical slight of hand is needed to claim ‘warmest evah!’.

    And yet some people are easily deceived and believe these snake oil salesmen.

  17. I’m trying to work out how you would measure 0.05degK. The only way I can think of is put your thermometer at the centre of a very well insulated cube of metal & wait a couple weeks for the metal temperature to become uniform. Or maybe you could use liquid helium.
    Pretty well any liquid or gas at normal temperatures has currents due to outside influences, convection, conduction etc etc fluctuate the temperature by decimals of a degee or more.
    Or is this some sort of artefact of repeated averaging without discarding the trivial figures? I can remember science teachers taking the piss out of bods who did that.

  18. Gamecock,

    A one or two degrees change in average temprature is clearly change (as it happens I belive most of that is a measuring error, as the higher tempratures mainly happen at night in colder seasons – when more heating is used (which does mean that better insulation would defeat climate change ironically)), but in can be natural variation – and variation is a synonym of change.

    It’s a bit pointless denying the climate changes unless you’re planning on attending an ice fair on the Thames soon. Far better to point out that we can’t measure it accurately, and that the assumption of human causes for change are particularly arrogant.

  19. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I remain unconvinced that there is a meaningful thing called “average global temperature”.

  20. “A one or two degrees change in average temprature is clearly change”

    But it is NOT climate change.

  21. “I remain unconvinced that there is a meaningful thing called “average global temperature”.”

    The UAH satellite data is probably the closest to a valid number.

    Climate scientists using a decimal point shows they have a sense of humor.

  22. Bloke in Costa Rica

    GC: what I mean is that I am not sure a bulk (i.e. intensive) property like temperature can meaningfully be ascribed to a high degree of freedom dynamical system like the Earth’s atmosphere. Given oracular knowledge of the system it might be derivable as a parameter, but we’re not even close to that, and even if we were it is by no means clear that a single variable like that tells us very much.

  23. Bloke in North Dorset


    I’m sure some climate scientist will be able to find a few molecules of water captured in a bubble in fossil that shows beyond all doubt that 2,000 years ago the Med was a lot less saltier than now. They’ll then add that to reports from sailors from 1,000 years ago that imply it was less salty than now and, hey presto, a graph of the increase in salinity of the Med will appear, along with the usual doomsaying forecasts.

  24. Even more amusing than using averages is the thing that they are using to get the average in the first place. To get an average daily temp you would think they would use some form of continuous monitoring, maybe hourly for practicality. Oh no. That would be too honest. Much simpler to use the daily highs and lows. Of course it might be have hot for minutes but they still use it.

    This means the error bar on the error bat on the average is huge. Climate is changig, just measuring it and ascribing the vast majority to CO2 is scientific fraud.

  25. If anyone is interested in actually looking st some primary evidence for climate chanemge, you can do worse than reading the IPCC reviews on the state of the topic

    Three volumes – the physical evidence, impact and mitigation.

    Personally, I think the evidence is actually rather good that there is human activity-induced climate change at an ‘abnormal’ level. I know a lot of commentators on the blog won’t agree, but I would encourage people to browse the real scientific papers.


    I also happen to agree with the notion Tim has expressed before that we may well be on one of the more benign scenarios where technological change is retarding energy demand and driving low-carbon supply.

    Whilst ‘green’ policy has helped to get this kicked off (sometimes in good ways, sometimes in stupidly expensive ways), it’s really only started to work because of good old fashioned capitalist economics; it’s starting to get cheaper than hydrocarbons for some applications and the rate of improvements mean that will continue to widen.

  26. Sorry, Oblong. I’m not reading 3 volumes to search for something I think absurd. If you have good evidence, produce it.

  27. John B.

    I would really like them to show temperature change in Kelvin on a linear scale over time. The line would be wider than the change over the last 100,000,000 years. That would definitely scare the public into demanding drastic lifestyle changes!

  28. ‘former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres who stated: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.” (Investors Business Daily, February 10, 2015)’

    Oblong, “you can do worse than reading the IPCC reviews on the state of the topic”

    The person in charge of the IPCC publicly declared the goal was killing capitalism. You are a chump.

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