New Documents Reveal Oil Industry Knew of Climate Risks Decades Earlier Than Suspected; Suggest Coordinated Efforts to Foster Skepticism | Center for International Environmental Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2016

Media Contact:
Carroll Muffett, President: cmuffett, 202.742.5772
Amanda Kistler, Communications Manager: akistler, 202.742.5832

New Documents Reveal Oil Industry Knew of Climate Risks Decades Earlier Than Suspected; Suggest Coordinated Efforts to Foster Skepticism

Washington, DC – Hundreds of documents uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) push back the record of oil industry knowledge on climate change by decades.

The research demonstrates that the oil industry was explicitly warned of climate risks in the 1960s. Significantly, much of this research was carried out as part of a broader industry effort—dating from the 1940s—to use industry-funded research to spur public skepticism of pollution science and environmental regulations.

“We began with three simple, related questions,” says Carroll Muffett, President of CIEL. “What did they know? When did they know it? And what did they do about it? What we found is that they knew a great deal, and they knew it much earlier and with greater certainty than anyone has recognized or that the industry has admitted.”

In 1968, a report commissioned by the oil industry detailed rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and warned of potentially catastrophic climate risks. It warned of melting ice caps, rising sea levels, impacts to fisheries and agriculture, and potentially serious degradation of the environment on a worldwide scale.

According to Muffett, ”CIEL’s findings add to the growing body of evidence that the oil industry worked to actively undermine public confidence in climate science and in the need for climate action even as its own knowledge of climate risks was growing.”

Through industry histories and other documents, CIEL traced the genesis of the industry’s collective climate research to a meeting of oil and gas industry executives in Los Angeles in late 1946. Faced with growing public concern about air pollution, the industry embarked on what would become a well-funded, carefully coordinated, multi-decade enterprise of funding scientific research into air pollution issues. Through its aptly-named Smoke and Fumes Committee, the industry not only funded research, but used it to promote public skepticism of environmental science and environmental regulations the industry considered hasty, costly, and potentially unnecessary.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

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