A Harvard study found that for nearly four decades, ExxonMobil downplayed the risks of climate change publicly even though its execs acknowledged that there is a real threat, in their internal communications.
“We conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public,”
the study authors wrote in their research paper.
The latest study can only add to the controversy around the gas and oil giant and its public policies concerning climate change.
Exxon commented on the study and labeled it as preposterous and inaccurate. The company believes the paper was paid for and written by activists. However, the Harvard team sifted through nearly 190 communications from the company about climate change.
The oldest communications were dated in 1977, and the newest in 2014. The files included internal papers, peer-reviewed studies funded by the company, and “advertorials” in the nation’s leading newspapers.
Researchers found that Exxon expressed doubt climate change was real when addressing the public, but acknowledged its existence in private settings. The advertorials highlighted only the uncertainties of the climate science and pushed for a narrative that contradicted the main consensus on the phenomenon.
The Company Has Known Climate Change Is Real Since the Late 1970s
In its internal communications, the company acknowledged that climate change is a “real, human-caused” phenomenon. The company also believes that it could be reversed.
Around 80 percent of the internal communications reviewed in the study showed that climate change is real and man-made. By contrast, just 12 percent of the advertorials acknowledged climate change as a real phenomenon. Eighty-one percent of its advertorials, however, cast doubt on the authenticity of the phenomenon.
For example, one document internally released in 1979 acknowledged that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can lead to the “warming of the earth’s surface”. That document also warned about “dramatic environmental effects” before the year 2050 tied to fossil fuel use.
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