Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Climate change: and 'taking statements out of context' >>> Climategate and Copenhagen >>> ExxonMobil and Paris

Remember 'Climategate'?
Climatic Research Unit email controversy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation - Telegraph

Climate change has always been a political football:
Futures Forum: The continuing politicisation of the climate change debate
Futures Forum: Climate change: "There is a 65% greater risk of flooding." >>> "We need to make sure businesses and communities are more resilient."

To what extent was the last UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen 'scuppered by the Climategate scandal'?
"Climategate" Should Derail Copenhagen Climate Conference - The Heritage Foundation
Climategate, Public Opinion, and the Loss of Trust | Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
Newspapers’ skeptic views persisted in ‘Climategate’ aftermath, study shows - Carbon Brief
What impact did 'Climategate' have on public opinion?

The founder of the 350 Degrees campaigning group is very sure about the effect of the scandal:

few weeks before the last great international climate conference—2009, in Copenhagen—the e-mail accounts of a few climate scientists were hacked and reviewed for incriminating evidence suggesting that global warming was a charade. Eight separate investigations later concluded that there was literally nothing to “Climategate,” save a few sentences taken completely out of context—but by that time, endless, breathless media accounts about the “scandal” had damaged the prospects for any progress at the conference.

Now, on the eve of the next global gathering in Paris this December, there’s a new scandal. But this one doesn’t come from an anonymous hacker taking a few sentences out of context. This one comes from months of careful reporting by two separate teams, one at the Pulitzer Prize–winning website Inside Climate News, and the other at the Los Angeles Times (with an assist from the Columbia Journalism School). Following separate lines of evidence and document trails, they’ve reached the same bombshell conclusion: ExxonMobil, the world’s largest and most powerful oil company, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the mid-1980s, and then spent the next few decades systematically funding climate denial and lying about the state of the science.
This scandal—traveling under the hashtag #exxonknew—is just beginning to build. The Inside Climate News series of six pieces is set to conclude this week and be published as a book, but the LA Times apparently has far more reporting waiting to be released. Already members of Congress—Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California—and presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have called on the Department of Justice to investigate, comparing it to the predations of the tobacco industry.

Exxon Knew Everything There Was to Know About Climate Change by the Mid-1980s—and Denied It | The Nation

This is from yesterday's Scientific American:

Exxon Knew about Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago

A new investigation shows the oil company understood the science before it became a public issue and spent millions to promote misinformation
smoke stacks

The company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. 

Credit: Getty Images/MARS
Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.  
Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. “It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,” says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research. 
In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical." In other words, Exxon needed to act.
But ExxonMobil disagrees that any of its early statements were so stark, let alone conclusive at all. “We didn’t reach those conclusions, nor did we try to bury it like they suggest,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Allan Jeffers tells Scientific American. “The thing that shocks me the most is that we’ve been saying this for years, that we have been involved in climate research. These guys go down and pull some documents that we made available publicly in the archives and portray them as some kind of bombshell whistle-blower exposé because of the loaded language and the selective use of materials.”
One thing is certain: in June 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming, Exxon remained publicly convinced that the science was still controversial. Furthermore, experts agree that Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion. By 1989 the company had helped create the Global Climate Coalition (disbanded in 2002) to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also helped to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 to control greenhouse gases. Exxon’s tactic not only worked on the U.S. but also stopped other countries, such as China and India, from signing the treaty. At that point, “a lot of things unraveled,” Oreskes says.
But experts are still piecing together Exxon’s misconception puzzle. Last summer the Union of Concerned Scientists released a complementary investigation to the one by InsideClimate News, known as the Climate Deception Dossiers (pdf). “We included a memo of a coalition of fossil-fuel companies where they pledge basically to launch a big communications effort to sow doubt,” says union president Kenneth Kimmel. “There’s even a quote in it that says something like ‘Victory will be achieved when the average person is uncertain about climate science.’ So it’s pretty stark.”
Since then, Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Although experts will never be able to quantify the damage Exxon’s misinformation has caused, “one thing for certain is we’ve lost a lot of ground,” Kimmell says. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere were released after 1988. “I have to think if the fossil-fuel companies had been upfront about this and had been part of the solution instead of the problem, we would have made a lot of progress [today] instead of doubling our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Experts agree that the damage is huge, which is why they are likening Exxon’s deception to the lies spread by the tobacco industry. “I think there are a lot of parallels,” Kimmell says. Both sowed doubt about the science for their own means, and both worked with the same consultants to help develop a communications strategy. He notes, however, that the two diverge in the type of harm done. Tobacco companies threatened human health, but the oil companies threatened the planet’s health. “It’s a harm that is global in its reach,” Kimmel says.
To prove this, Bob Ward—who on behalf of the U.K.’s Royal Academy sent a letter to Exxon in 2006 claiming its science was “inaccurate and misleading”—thinks a thorough investigation is necessary. “Because frankly the episode with tobacco was probably the most disgraceful episode one could ever imagine,” Ward says. Kimmell agrees. These reasons “really highlight the responsibility that these companies have to come clean, acknowledge this, and work with everyone else to cut out emissions and pay for some of the cost we're going to bear as soon as possible,” Kimmell says.
It doesn’t appear, however, that Kimmell will get his retribution. Jeffers claims the investigation’s finds are “just patently untrue, misleading, and we reject them completely”—words that match Ward’s claims against them nearly a decade ago.

Exxon Knew about Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago - Scientific American

And it's a story which has been catching fire:
Did oil giant ExxonMobil know about climate change in 1981? | Climate Change | Environment | The Independent
Exxon Knew About Climate Change in the 1970s - Fortune
What Exxon Knew About Climate Change - The New Yorker

This is the response from Exxon:

ExxonMobil says Climate Research Stories Inaccurate and Deliberately Misleading

Oct 21, 2015 - 07:04 p.m. EDT

IRVING, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) said today that media and environmental activists’ allegations about the company’s climate research are inaccurate and deliberately misleading.
“For nearly 40 years we have supported development of climate science in partnership with governments and academic institutions, and did and continue to do that work in an open and transparent way,” said Ken Cohen, vice president of public and government affairs.
“Activists deliberately cherry-picked statements attributed to various company employees to wrongly suggest definitive conclusions were reached decades ago by company researchers. These activists took those statements out of context and ignored other readily available statements demonstrating that our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time which, in fact, mirrored global understanding.”
The allegations were contained in reports distributed by InsideClimate News, an anti-oil and gas activist organization, and the Los Angeles Times, and have prompted political attacks by Senators Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier.
Both InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times ignored evidence provided by the company of continuous and publicly available climate research that refutes their claims.
“The facts are that we identified the potential risks of climate change and have taken the issue very seriously,” said Cohen. “We embarked on decades of research in collaboration with many parties, including the Department of Energy, leading academic institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and others to advance climate science.”
ExxonMobil scientists continue to research and publish findings to improve understanding of climate system science as a basis for society’s response to climate change and have produced more than 50 peer-reviewed publications on topics including the global carbon cycle, detection and attribution of climate change, low carbon technologies and analysis of future scenarios for energy and climate.
ExxonMobil scientists have been selected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ most authoritative body on the subject, as authors of their past four major assessment reports, and have contributed to National Research Council boards and committees on climate change.
“We recognize that our past participation in broad coalitions that opposed ineffective climate policies subjects us to criticism by climate activist groups,” said Cohen. “We will continue to advocate for policies that reduce emissions while enabling economic growth.”
Since 2009, the company has supported a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the preferred policy approach for emission reduction because it ensures a uniform and predictable cost of carbon, allows market prices to drive solutions, maximizes transparency to stakeholders, reduces administrative complexity, promotes global participation, and is easily adjusted to future developments in climate science and policy impacts.
ExxonMobil joined other companies to provide initial and ongoing funding to create and support the MIT Joint Program on Climate Science and Policy and Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project, which has engaged scores of researchers, faculty and students and has resulted in hundreds of scientific publications on climate change and low carbon technologies.
The company has an active research program into lower-carbon emission technologies, such as algae and cellulosic-based biofuels, carbon capture and storage and advanced engines to name a few.
More information on ExxonMobil’s climate research can be found on ExxonMobil’s corporate blog, Perspectives at www.exxonmobilperspectives.com.
ExxonMobil says Climate Research Stories Inaccurate and Deliberately Misleading | ExxonMobil News Releases

See also:
Futures Forum: Climate change: is it big oil's greatest 'existential risk'?
Futures Forum: Overproduction and the end of Big Oil's business model
Futures Forum: Climate change: 'stranded assets' and 'unburnable oil' ...... or the pressures to leave oil and gas in the ground

No comments: