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« Quote of the day, science with Guardian characteristics edition | Main | A change to the playing field »

Exxon knew what the IPCC didn't

Bernie Lewin has posted another of his must-read climate history pieces, this time looking at the history of claims about detection and attribution of temperature changes to mankind. His point is that claims that "Exxon knew" back in the 1970s are absurd when set in the context of what climate science was saying on the subject of an anthropogenic influence ten, or even twenty years later.

It's beautifully written and confirms Bernie's place as an important historian of global warming science. You must be able to get a very comical juxtaposition by reading Bernie's erudite thoughts after perusing the effusions of a "proper" historian like Naomi Oreskes.


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Reader Comments (19)

Exxon is a guilty today as it was 40 years ago.

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Absolutely right, Aila.
Wasn't guilty then; isn't guilty now.
Well perceived!

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:32 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

In the 70's fossil fuels were supposed to be causing global cooling. Did Exxon know that the cooling hysteria would be replaced by warming hysteria followed by a 20 year period of hiatus that confounded both hypotheses?

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

As I understand it the "Exxon knew" meme has been based on the tobbacco tactics model - and that the strategy was in place awaiting some "evidence" - which surprise, surprise - is lame and obfuscated.

This mendacious asshollery agitators / providers have embroidered and exaggerated as usual far beyond any evidence...

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:22 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Thanks for the link to Bernie Lewin's blog, a blog of which I was previously unaware. His posts on climate science corruption at Madrid in 1995 are fascinating reading.

Nov 23, 2015 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlabicyclette

Right, Alabi, because of his elegant discussion, and because of the importance of Madrid 1995 in the expansion of this extraordinary bubble of popular delusion, I believe those words will be read for a long time.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The whole basis of the accusation is Lamesville, Arizona. Exxon hardly need to open their purse to pay 'deniers' like me when this is the best the green lobby can come up with. It's just another piece of political extortion with a 'saving the planet' label slapped on the front.

Exxon, and their industry, is profitable because we need and want their products. Others are envious of those profits, and hate them for it. The industry managers have career lifespans little different from other humans, and, in truth, they've dealt with worse people demanding higher bribes (at the individual level) than the current green crop.

They are happy to pay a certain amount of Dane-geld to environmentalists as the price of doing business because they also know they can improve their medium-term capital-efficiency by selling less oil at a higher price. Hey, it worked for OPEC.

If their serious shareholders decided that the politico-green movement might actually drive them to extinction, then they might take action. They were happy to see the coal-industry being punished, because they benefited in the short term. But they are next on the list.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

michael hart

re:Exxon - spot on - blackmail infers disclosing something uncomfortable for the victim - but this is political thuggery / banditry playing heavily on the politics of envy and portraying the eco crew's motives as honorable and honest altruism - which actually couldn't be further from the facts......

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:37 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Greenpeace, IPCC et al should be sued for every death that could have been prevented with reliable power from fossil fuels.

The current Indian Government have developed an appetite for legal action, I expect other Asian and African Governments would be happy to follow.

Many Governments would have no difficulty in proving Greenpeace's deliberate obstruction of development in underdeveloped areas of the world.

People who live in Greenhouses, shouldn't throw stones, at their own reflection.

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

It does make you wonder why, if Exxon were really 30 years ahead of the rest of the world's scientists, why we needed to spend so much money on climate research. We could have saved that three decades of research expenditure and still know as much as we do today.

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

We could have saved that three decades of research expenditure and still know as much as we do today.
That could have been written by Alia.

Nov 23, 2015 at 3:03 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

@ James G

Global cooling? When? Maybe in Time magazine but certainly not ever mainstream scientific opinion. Try reading

Am assuming this won't stop you reproducing your drivel but one can try ;-)

Oh and whilst I'm here

a) spot on Aila

b) who the f**k is Bernie Lewin? lol

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

Onbyaccident, didn't Paul Ehrlich write about global cooling, in the 1970's, assisted by John Holdren?

They must have been fitter back then, to leap from one speeding bandwagon, to another, going in the opposite direction.

I am old enough to remember the jokes about global cooling in the unprecedented drought and heat wave in the UK of 1976. The UK Met Office seem to have forgotten summer 1976, when they report weather extremes, along with the great storm of 1987, that Michael Fish didn't notice.

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

As the 1980s gave way to the 90s, I was working at moderately high level in the resources industries, both corporately and via industry associations. My work had passed from being mainly scientific to mainly managerial, with specific reference to Government imposts and the increasing need for more and varied permits to do our usual work.
While I was not placed to know the mind workings of Exxon, I was able to distil the general industry attitudes of the time.
The first recollection of that time span is that articles started to appear in places like Scientific American, noting that man was plausibly adding CO2 to the atmosphere in ways that were detectable all over the globe. This was about the first time that many of us in industry realised that this would be a global problem if not addressed.
Our thinking was quite basic. We were not aware of any substance except CO2 that had the makings of global pollution. Therefore, it demanded attention from those who might be able to control the pollution. Ours was a back yard approach scaled up to global dimensions. Many of us owned sulphide ore smelters that belched SO2 and in vague, general terms we felt that getting to know the CO2 matters better could assist with possible action on SO2.
It was in the interests of the resources industry to study CO2.
In 1990 or so, I did a large and detailed survey of my employer's CO2 balance. We were into forestry, paper making, manufacture of large machinery (pumps), mining and had been into smelting (recently stopped for economic reasons).
Also, we were in a JV that discovered the Ranger Uranium deposits, which we proceeded to develop. The outcome of the CO2 balance study was vastly influenced by inclusion of uranium substituting for coal burning for electricity.
There was not at any time a sudden realisation that CO2 had the potential for global disaster. There was dominant thought that if and when it became serious, the inventive mind of Man would find a way out.
The matter was given less and less importance when we studied eco papers and realised that their whole science approach was riddled with errors and should not be taken seriously. We were reading activism rather than science.

So, I doubt that corporations like Exxon acted to conceal, because the mood of the industry was quite open and quite different to recent green surmises. The greens in those days were mostly pimply youngsters with speech impediments and dirty hair, not the types to whom we would be expected to answer. So, we just slapped them down when they got too troublesome.
Then I retired and to my dismay, my successor generation across the industry relaxed self-discipline and next thing, the newspapers were siding with these youngsters and their immature arguments.
The rest, you know about.

Nov 24, 2015 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

'that's all myth that some some 1970's scientists really thought an ice age was coming' says OnlyHereToMakeTrouble above.. 'Scientists said something else' ...he claims
I'm sure he's been calling out the media for misleading the public by saying "scientists say" from even before Star Treks's Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy) used it in the Ice Age Scare 1979 documentary

Ending "...the result could be hunger and death on a scale unprecedented in all of history..."
"What scientists are telling us now is that the threat of an ice age is not as remote as they once thought. During the lifetime of our grandchildren Arctic cold and perpetual snow could turn most of the inhabitable portions into a polar desert".
from a longer version This is part 1. Parts 2 and 3 feature more scientists speaking
"..climate experts believe the next Ice age is on its way according to recent evidence could come sooner than anyone had expected."

"Today the island is poised on the brink a by ice age conditions a critical signal post-purchase changes in the Earth’s climate according to geologists"

"Doctor Gifford Miller is a glaciologist from the University of Colorado. He is been studying the climate and glaciers are baffin island for the past six years."
"“For the last 3,000 years the summer temperatures have been getting colder.."

Ernie Sieber is Superindent of Baffin National Park .."It looks like the climate has changed looks like is has turned colder "

Part2 ends with a scientist speaking "We can currently say with confidence that we are heading towards another ice-age"

Nov 24, 2015 at 9:42 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Onbyaccident almost signature of the alarmist crowd is their 'belief ' that they are so much smarter then every one else , and so they really can pull of claiming 'black is white ' because others are just to dumb to figure it their lying .
The case of Global cooling or the coming 'new ice age' is a classic example of this , as this was indeed the 'climate doom scare ' which was pushed , often by the same people that now claim 'warming doom ' , before CAGW .

But in very 1984 style attempt to rewrite history , we are seeing claims that this ;never happened ' , sadly for those pushing this line the reality is that people are smarter then you think , and it is worth remembering that in the book 1984 that one of the underlying messages was of the failure of such attempts to rewrite history in this way.

Still in few years time another attempt can be made , where we will be told that CAGW was never claimed to be 'settled science' in the first place. See you then .

Nov 24, 2015 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Interesting to read again how the earlier crap model predictions also had to be tweaked by aerosols with dubious fudge factors unrelated to science.

Nov 24, 2015 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I don't think Onby is suggesting that it wasn't being discussed but certainly not by most mainstream qualified scientists (hence the reference to say Time magazine and no doubt some likewise ill informed documentaries). But to attribute the mindset of headline grabbing journos and documentary makers as being aligned to that of the vast majority of scientists is wrong.

Mind you I suspect it suits your delusions to do so :-)

Nov 24, 2015 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterYouKnowNothingBishHill

The documentary actually features a number of scientists speaking alarmingly about a coming ice-age.
One Stephen Schneider is famous for being an Ice-Age scare man who took 2 years to turn around and became a Global Warming scare man

“Schneider was one of the first in the scientific community to warn of the impending Ice Age with this paper –

“Schneider S. & Rasool S., “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols – Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate”, Science, vol.173, 9 July 1971, p.138-141″

Nov 27, 2015 at 5:14 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

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