Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
April 16, 2016 12:53 AM   Subscribe

Hundreds of documents uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law have push back the record of oil industry knowledge on climate change by decades, and have now been published on the Internet: Smoke and Fumes.

Big Oil-funded Standford Research Institute warned the American Petroleum Institute in 1968, building on research from the Smoke And Fumes Commission from the 1940s, even earlier than has commonly been supposed, and that "... rising levels of CO2 would likely result in rising global temperatures" and concluded that that, if temperatures increased significantly "the result could be melting ice caps, rising sea levels, warming oceans, and serious environmental damage on a global scale", and that something needed to be done.

Big Oil decided it would rather continue to explore and produce, so funded groups to question the science it has generally backed away from in recent months, although it also funds other shadowy groups to fight against regulations.

In related news, the world's biggest private coal concern, Peabody, has gone into Chaper 11 bankruptcy at a time of fuel switching to gas and low coal demand, industry says new rules (531 page PDF) from the Obama Administration will mean up to much of the remaining oil in the US Gulf of Mexico will be uneconomic to extract, and BP has been accused of putting attempts by Australia to limit its growing carbon emissions, and potentially putting New Zealand's waters at risk.

Oh, and ExxonMobil says a probe into what it knew and when by at least four US states (covered previously is "based on an ulterior motive to silence those who express views on climate change with which they disagree" and harms the company's "constitutional rights to speak freely".

Of course, is climate change even real? Just 97% of climate scientists believe it is, and caused by humans, and there is still room for doubt as a new documentary proves!

Meanwhile, Greenland's ice melt is accelerating and the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching (previously).
posted by Mezentian (22 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
You have to feel for Big Oil. Exxon's Rex Tillerson had to take a pay cut to a mere $27 million and BP's Bob Dudley will only rake in $25 million this year.
posted by Mezentian at 12:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

You know there are ways to profit from Climate Change and many of its "disastrous" effects (disastrous for most, but not all), and if Big Oil didn't use their secret information to explore those ways instead of just denying, then they are not nearly as evil as they could be (and a LOT less smart).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:24 AM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm glad to hear the people responsible are going to prison, the organisations they represent are being dissolved, and practical steps are being taken to mitigate the damage.
posted by adept256 at 3:23 AM on April 16, 2016 [45 favorites]

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, they say, but also the most appropriate.
posted by Mezentian at 3:44 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

So a company was told that their product might lead to global warming sometime in distant future.

The fact that the company sought to question the findings of the one group is hardly surprising.

Even today with a MUCH MUCH greater understanding of the science there is a vast number of people who question either the warming itself or that it is primarily caused by humans.

It wasn't like they had an indisputable smoking gun.

If rice farmer were told their business, their livelihood was contributing to global warming would they have changed anything? Are they changing anything?

The only reason to single out "Big Oil" is because they have money and therefore make a lucrative target. Nothing to do with fairness
posted by 2manyusernames at 6:03 AM on April 16, 2016

Even today with a MUCH MUCH greater understanding of the science there is a vast number of people who question either the warming itself or that it is primarily caused by humans.

How many of those people would be questioning the science if companies like Exxon and the coal industry hadn't invested tens of millions to promote "skepticism" about climate science?
posted by sneebler at 6:18 AM on April 16, 2016 [14 favorites]

Sure, they have the money, which they've been spending freely to undermine climate science. Maybe the rice industry would have done the same if they'd profited from their environmental damage in the same way, but they didn't and they didn't. That money which makes them "lucrative" is also why all those people question the science now.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:19 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The only reason to single out "Big Oil" is because they have money and therefore make a lucrative target. Nothing to do with fairness

Hence all the lawsuits, chasing Big AGW money from Big Green.
As opposed to all the lawsuits, from small, scrappy Green groups, saying "Pls stop ruining the planet now".

I work "industry adjacent", I know these people, I know why they do what they do, I may have even met people mentioned in these articles: and I can say: they are more involved in the present than the future.

And why wouldn't they? As a 20-year-old, I'd be more interested in that $100-200Kpa job figuring out the why and where of hydrocarbon generation than, well, whatever the alternative is.
posted by Mezentian at 6:40 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The funny thing is that all this energy money is ill-gotten gains in the first place.

The logic of the windfall profits of natural resources -- people essentially getting something for nothing -- ending in private hands just escapes me.

Norway did things differently -- royalty rates paid to the state are much higher there -- and are the world's happiest society largely thanks to it, with $200,000 per capita set aside in the global equity markets along with a health government fiscal situation now.

Of course the GOP is largely an arm of the resource companies, thanks to their longstanding investment into the propaganda tanks -- AEI, Heritage, Cato, Manhattan Institute, etc etc -- and the media footprint the Kochs etc. invest in today.

We are a very, very stupid people, and stupid people are going to stupid.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:40 AM on April 16, 2016 [16 favorites]

Norway did things differently.See also, Alaska, tax, rebates.

We are a very, very stupid people, and stupid people are going to stupid.

Some peoples want to watch the world burn, most people don't know that they're paying to help the world burn.
posted by Mezentian at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

My father was a senior member of the management team at a big oil multinational. My brothers and I remember him talking about CO2 problems on long drives in the early 60's.

"We'll have to stop burning coal, oil and even wood, or we're all in trouble."

He was never what you'd call an environmentalist, but this clearly was an issue he worried about.
posted by Pablo MacWilliams at 9:31 AM on April 16, 2016 [13 favorites]

Exactomondo -- I was aware of global warming more than, well, at least 40 years ago, thanks in no small part to Isaac Asimov's science column in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I was ranting about it in junior high, or so it seems in memory still green.
posted by y2karl at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, jeez, I went and edited that down from 50 years to 40, thinking I had exaggerated once again, but, hell, after Googling, I come to find the first time he mentioned it was in the January 1959 issue! That's 57 years ago...
posted by y2karl at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2016

2manyusernames, there are two key details I think you're misunderstanding.

1) The basic science of climate change is incredibly simple (carbon dixoide+ sun = greenhouse effect). It's a complete misrepresentation of the debate among scientists today to think that is complicated part. Climate scientists work all the amazing and subtle details: the exact timing, degree, the relative importance of different ice packs, etc, etc. (I'll concede that if the timescale was a million years, then sure maybe they had no obligation to change their business practice, but I just don't think the debate has ever included timescales that long).

2) Exxon was, at the time, one of the premier research power-houses in the world. They had no shortage of absolutely amazing scientists in house as well. This was not "one group" of naysayers, and never has been.
posted by lab.beetle at 3:50 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Soylent Green came out in 1973. and I remember in the 1980s everyone was on about the Greenhouse Effect all the time. So I don't think this 1968 report was exactly swept under the rug.
posted by mary8nne at 4:05 PM on April 16, 2016

There may be a vast vast number of people of people who question global warming or that it is caused by humans but, the audiences of Fox News, George Noory and Rush Limbaugh aside, VERY VERY FEW of them are climate scientists. 97 % of those folks are in agreement on both issues and have been so for DECADES.

So, if there are a million of climate scientists, you get maybe 30, 000 nay sayers. A VAST number. But 970,000 yea sayers, now that is FAR FAR VASTER a number. You have a right to your own opinion but not to your own facts. That train left the station before you were born.
posted by y2karl at 4:56 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fossil Fuels Could Be Phased Out Worldwide In a Decade, Says Study .

Could... but won't, probably to do anything like that in 20-40 years.
posted by Mezentian at 6:20 PM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some people want to watch the world burn, most people don't know that they're paying to help the world burn.
And there are many people who don't really care if the world burns, because they live atop a fire-proof tower from which they'd have an awesome view of the burning.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:58 PM on April 16, 2016

Sounds like a JG Ballard novel.
posted by Mezentian at 9:07 PM on April 16, 2016

How do we make objects without petroleum?
posted by judson at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2016

We probably will always need petroleum in some form (Bernstein & Co says by 2100 we'll be using 20 million barrels a day), but we're at the stage where we can see an end for using it for energy, and if we get off our encounter-suited butts and do something about it, by 2050: why the hell not?

I used to think we couldn't make steel without coking coal, but apparently we can.
So, there you go.
posted by Mezentian at 4:29 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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