An international group of scientists have published a report which claims how for decades, fossil fuel corporations such as Exxon Mobil knew about climate change but chose to deny it to protect business interests.
The report, written in collaboration by researchers at the University of Bristol, Harvard University and George Mason University, reveals internal corporate documents that show how the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change but chose to fund denial and disinformation.
According to the authors of the study, the purpose of this denial has been to confuse the public and decision-makers in order to delay climate change policies and therefore protect fossil fuel business interests.
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol and co-author of the study said: ‘Disinformation about climate change has a straightforward purpose, to block action on climate change.’
‘In America, it has largely succeeded, with policies to mitigate climate change blocked or delayed for decades.’
The scientists looked at reports from Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest international oil and gas companies.
According to the report, scientists working for the fossil fuel industry knew about the warming effects of CO2 emissions as early as the 1950s.
In an internal memo from 1977, the scientists wrote: ‘CO2 release is most likely a source of climate modification, doubling CO2 could increase average global temperature by 3 degrees by 2050.’
However, despite this knowledge in 1988 Exxon wrote: ‘Emphasise the uncertainty in scientific conclusions, urge a balanced scientific approach.’
This disinformation continued explicitly in the public eye, in an advert published in the New York Times in 2000, Exxon wrote: ‘There are fundamental gaps in knowledge leaving scientists unable to make reliable predictions about future climate change.’
Geoffrey Supran, a research associate in the Department of History and Science at Harvard University said: ‘For 60 years, the fossil fuel industry has known about the potential global warming dangers of their product.’
‘But instead of warning the public or doing something about it, they turned around and orchestrated a massive campaign of denial and delay designed to project profits.’
‘The evidence is incontrovertible, Exxon misled the public and therefore should be held accountable.’
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