(Part One of Three)
Climate Science & Policy Watch is keenly interested in recent developments regarding various investigations into ExxonMobil Corporation, spurred by a growing concern that the company has chronically and grossly misrepresented to its investors and the public the risks it faces as a result of impacts and other factors associated with global climate disruption.
As part of an ongoing investigation of our own, we have reviewed all of the 10-K forms ExxonMobil has submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1993 (the furthest back these forms are available online) to the present, in an effort to better understand how this oil giant has addressed the climate change threat — a threat Exxon itself has been shown to fully grasp going back four decades, despite its rhetoric to the contrary. No doubt, the Attorneys General in New York and California investigating ExxonMobil have tasked their staffs with a similar exercise. These comprehensive, mind-numbingly detailed reports must not only address the financial health of the company and all of its operations, but must also address the full set of risks it faces in the marketplace and in the geographic areas in which it operates. From what we see in the 10-Ks, each over a hundred pages long and requiring, on average, 2,000 hours to complete, Exxon has done a masterful job of hedging its bets, both by omission and commission: omitting mere mention for many years, and then grossly understating, the vast array of direct and indirect risks it faces as a result of climate change. Even worse, Exxon has overtly and flagrantly overstated possible financial and economic risks associated with regulating carbon and other GHGs, both here in the US and in nations around the world.
ExxonMobil has a simple but admittedly very difficult Darwinian choice to make: Will the oil giant continue with the defiant, rosy-scenario, thumbs-up, “bidness”-as-usual approach going forward, or will it continue to feel the heat — politically, socially, economically and quite literally on our warming planet — and eventually, burn.
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch an Exxon Tiger by the toe.
This is the first of a three-part series that analyzes the 10-K reports submitted to the SEC by the Exxon Corporation (which became ExxonMobil in 1998) from 1993-2015, this first covering 1993-2000. It is the latest installment in a series of CSPW posts focusing not only on Exxon, but on Big Oil as well, and the oil and gas industry’s stubborn recalcitrance in the face of indisputable scientific findings on climate change. Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that the GHG burden in the atmosphere (now at an unprecedented 404 ppm and climbing) as a result of fossil fuel combustion is profoundly altering and disrupting planetary climatic conditions, thus posing significant risks to all populations and all economic activity worldwide. From one narrow perspective, the head-in-the-sand ostrich approach to the climate change problem has worked fairly well for ExxonMobil and its predecessor companies, if profit margin is the sole metric. However, even Exxon’s bottom line is at risk now and ExxonMobil, like all fossil-based commercial entities, will ultimately need to either adapt to a low-carbon economy to survive, or go out of business (i.e., go extinct) altogether: even giants like Exxon are part of the fabric of society and not exempt from the Darwinian laws of nature. Constraints on carbon emissions are inevitable; it is not in our collective best interest to further delay action.
Our review of Exxon Corporation’s 10-K forms, in light of key developments in climate science and policy in the years we reviewed, provided a troubling but insightful timeline. The stark contrast between what Exxon was sharing with its investors and what the rest of the scientific community was reporting to the rest of the world was remarkable, and incriminating of Exxon.
1993 is the earliest year for which we could find an online 10-K for Exxon Corp; we closely reviewed the 10-Ks for 1993-2015 — 23 years worth. Of course to glean an even more comprehensive understanding of what Exxon was saying about climate change and when it was saying it, It will also be important to review Forms 10-K (and perhaps other financial and risk analysis reporting) for the time period beginning in the early 1970s (when Exxon began gearing up to conduct extensive in-house research on carbon dioxide in our oceans) through 1992 as well, to complete the timeline. In the meanwhile, we can set the scene with an initial abbreviated timeline leading up to 1993.
Contrary to popular notions, the story really begins about 150 years ago, much earlier than the 1970s.
The following are some key developments regarding Exxon and climate change, going back to the origins of both Exxon and our awareness of the prospect of global warming. Interestingly, they happened at approximately the same time in human history.
1870: Standard Oil Company (Exxon’s predecessor) was formally established by John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in Ohio.
1890: Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, preventing monopolies like the one Standard Oil had become.
1896: Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, first published his findings after developing the first model for studying the heat-trapping properties and effects on our atmosphere and climate of industrial carbon dioxide. He was one of several scientists of the time to study and call attention to Earth’s changing climate and the role rising CO2 could play.
1911: In enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act, the US Justice Department forced Standard Oil to break up into 34 individual companies.
1920s-1950s: Scientific papers addressing the prospect of global warming and its effect on the Arctic and our glaciers are appearing in scientific literature throughout the developed world.
1957: The National Academy of Sciences submitted its First General Report on Climatology to the Chief of the Weather Bureau through a Committee on Climatology chaired by Dr. Thomas F. Malone. (AIP, NCBI)
1958: Charles David Keeling began taking atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements at Mauna Loa Laboratory in Hawaii, initiating what has become the most reliable and longest continuous record of tropospheric CO2 concentrations in the world. These essential measurements continue to this day.
1962: Exxon Corporation takes an ad out in the February issue of LIFE Magazine, against a backdrop photograph of Alaska’s Taku Glacier, boasting that Humble Oil and Refining (an Exxon predecessor) supplies enough energy “to melt 7 tons of glacier.”
1965: President Lyndon Johnson warned about the potential dangers of a changing climate in a special message to Congress: “Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”
1972: Gas stations bearing the names Esso and Enco were newly named “Exxon” and the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey changed its name to the Exxon Corporation.
1977: In July, Exxon senior scientist James F. Black warned top Exxon management of the dangers associated with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from fossil fuel combustion. “Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical,” Black admonishes in an internal briefing paper for Exxon leadership. (Hat tip to InsideClimate News for it’s stellar investigative reporting on this topic.)
1977 and beyond: As early as 1977, representatives of all the major oil companies including Exxon attended and testified at dozens of Congressional hearings addressing the relationship between CO2 emissions, the greenhouse effect, and global warming. Climate scientists such as former GAP client Dr. James Hansen, Charles Keeling, Richard Kerr, and others were busy publishing papers warning of the hazards of global warming as a result of fossil fuel combustion. (UCS report)
1978: Congress passed into law the National Climate Program Act for federal climate science research, a law spearheaded by Rep. George E. Brown of California.
1979: Exxon scientist Henry Shaw led company teams who began to study the absorption rate of CO2 in the oceans. “Exxon must develop a credible scientific team that can critically evaluate the information generated on the subject and be able to carry bad news, if any, to the corporation,” Shaw wrote in a letter to Exxon research executives. (InsideClimate News)
1980s: Scientific papers addressing the growing evidence of the global warming and global climate change threat became even more frequent and compelling.
1987: The National Academy of Sciences issued its first major report on the prospect of rising oceans: Responding to Changes in Sea Level: Engineering Implications.
1988: Dr. James Hansen delivered famous testimony before Congress, declaring that climate change was real, it had arrived, and was already causing impacts. His testimony caused a major splash in the media and news of his conclusions rippled through organizations concerned about our global environment. Exxon had also taken notice: an internal memo from August 1988 lays out the beginnings of what would later become the “global warming denial machine,” a term of art coined and well documented by CSPW founder Rick Piltz. (UCS report)
1989: The United Nations created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
1989: The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) — a well-known front-group for fossil fuel interests — was created in 1989, shortly after the IPCC’s first meeting, operating out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers. Exxon Corp. was one of its earliest members, along with Chevron, Ford, General Motors, Shell, Texaco, and of course, the American Petroleum Institute. Throughout the 1990s until it disbands in 1997, the GCC grooms and dispatches well-known climate “skeptics” Patrick Michaels, Robert Balling, Fred Singer, and others (all partly funded by Exxon) as “climate science experts.” (UCS report)
1989: Exxon hired Harvard-educated astrophysicist Brian Flannery to examine the mathematical models being used to better understand global warming and project future scenarios. Through Exxon, Flannery granted funding to universities, starting with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, funding with strings. Flannery was clear in providing direction to MIT researchers: “Embrace the uncertainty in all of this.”
1989: On March 24, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, causing one of the most massive and destructive oil spills in world history.
1990: Exxon faces its first climate-related shareholder resolution, proposed by Brion Blackwelder of Friends of the Earth. With 250,000 Exxon shares, Blackwelder asked Exxon’s Board of Directors to develop a company-wide plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the company’s energy production plants and facilities worldwide.” Exxon pushed its typical “scientific uncertainty” message in its opposition statement: “Exxon’s own examination supports the idea that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.” The proposal was defeated, winning only six percent of the vote. But, it was a start. (ICN: Exxon’s 25 Years of ‘No’)
1990: Exxon scientist Brian Flannery inserts himself into the IPCC process, submitting papers, attending meetings, and, as the first IPCC summary document on climate change was being prepared by scientists, Flannery boldly asked the drafters how they could justify large cuts in CO2 emissions, given all the uncertainties?
1990: The US Global Change Research Act — a much-improved version of the National Climate Program Act — was signed into law; the GCRA codified (i.e. mandated by law) the interagency US Global Change Research Program, where CSW founder Rick Piltz later held senior positions from 1995-2005.
1991: The National Academy of Sciences issued another seminal report: Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming.
1992: While still a US Senator from Tennessee, soon to be named Vice President, Al Gore wrote his first book addressing the climate problem: Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.
Without the 10-K reports for these years, especially for the 1970s when the company was conducting its own research on carbon dioxide in the oceans, it is difficult to know what Exxon was revealing to the SEC and its shareholders regarding its understanding of the relationship between fossil fuel combustion and global warming. Even so, we can learn much from the 23 years of 10-Ks from 1993-2015: CSPW’s summary and analysis, with important points of context, begins below for the period 1993-2000.
Part Two of this series will cover the period 2001-2008. Part Three will cover 2009-2015. Each of these reports was prepared by Exxon’s accounting firm, Price Waterhouse LLP, which merged with Coopers & Lybrand in 1998 to become PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, now known simply as PwC, the 6th largest privately owned organization in the US.
1993: In January 1993, Lee Raymond had officially taken the helm as Exxon’s Chair of the Board and CEO, held previously by Lawrence Rawl. For calendar (and fiscal) year 1993 — again, the earliest year we could find Exxon’s SEC filings online — Exxon Corporation’s Form 10-K makes no mention of climate change at all. A global word search yields zero results for each of the following search terms: “climate,” “weather,” “global warming,” “carbon dioxide,” “CO2,” or “greenhouse gases.” In addressing overall risks, Exxon had this to say to the SEC and its shareholders:
“The operations and earnings of the corporation and its affiliates throughout the world have been, and may in the future be, affected from time to time in varying degree by political developments and laws and regulations, such as forced divestiture of assets; restrictions on production, imports and exports; price controls; tax increases and retroactive tax claims; expropriation of property; cancellation of contract rights and environmental regulations (emphasis added). Both the likelihood of such occurrences and their overall effect upon the corporation vary greatly from country to country and are not predictable (emphasis added).”
This theme — that the Exxon leadership views future potential environmental regulations as (potentially adversely) affecting “operations and earnings” and are unpredictable — and language similar to it, carries through all of the 10-K statements we reviewed.
As the SEC requires reporting on company litigation matters, the 1993 10-K includes a paragraph regarding the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska:
“A number of lawsuits, including class actions, have been brought in various courts against Exxon Corporation and certain of its subsidiaries relating to the release of crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez in 1989. Most of these lawsuits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages; several lawsuits seek damages in varying specified amounts. Certain of the lawsuits seek injunctive relief. The claims of many individuals have been dismissed or settled. Most of the remaining actions are scheduled for trial in federal court commencing May 2, 1994. Other actions will likely be tried in state court later in 1994. The cost to the corporation from these lawsuits is not possible to predict; however, it is believed that the final outcome will not have a materially adverse effect upon the corporation’s operations or financial condition.”
Exxon never did pay for long-term environmental damages to Prince William Sound and its vast shoreline.
1994: With the exception of changes in the financial details, the 10-K for FY 1994 is essentially the same as that for FY 1993. No mention is made of climate, global warming, carbon dioxide, CO2, or greenhouse gases. There is one mention of “weather” — Exxon notes that “despite unseasonably warm temperatures in both the US and Europe during the fourth quarter of 1994, worldwide natural gas production” still rose from 1993 levels. So, shareholders: no worries, thumbs up.
1995: The Form 10-K for FY 1995 also makes no mention at all of climate, weather, global warming, carbon dioxide, CO2, or greenhouse gases. However, Exxon reassured investors that, although a federal judge had imposed punitive damage verdicts against the company for the “accidental release” (their words) of oil in Alaska, the verdict was “unjustified” and Exxon vowed to appeal. The underlying message was that Exxon simply could not, would not, allow Valdez liabilities to cut too deeply into the lucrative profit margin.
Meanwhile, the oil industry’s own scientists had been warning of climate change dangers, and we have evidence to prove it. For example, a leaked internal draft document prepared in 1995 by a team of scientists at Mobil Corporation (which had not yet merged with Exxon), intended for fossil industry executives but not the general public, unequivocally states:
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”
While there are plenty of other sources to cite, CSPW would like to recommend an informative, well-documented dissertation addressing the full extent of Big Oil’s role in over-emphasizing scientific uncertainties regarding anthropogenic climate change: a 2015 report produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Climate Deception Dossiers.
Tropospheric CO2 concentrations were rising fast: at the famous Mauna Loa laboratory, Charles Keeling was continuing (as he always had since 1958) to measure and report atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. In 1995 he published a scientific paper in Nature, “Interannual Extremes in the Rate of Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide since 1980.” By 1995, the climate problem was well known and knowable; one would have to have been an ostrich with its head in the sand not to understand that we were conducting an enormous experiment with Earth’s atmosphere with potentially dire consequences.
1996: Our reading experience of Form 10-K for FY 1996, in the words of Yogi Berra, was “Déjà vu all over again.” Mention of climate or anything related: zip. The weather, however, is mentioned in a positive note for investors: in 1996 natural gas production rose to the highest level in 15 years, up nine percent from the year before, “due to colder weather in Europe and the US.” The relationship between weather conditions and product sales does not escape Exxon.
Meanwhile, the IPCC released two major reports in 1996: The Science of Climate Change, and Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analyses by Robert T. Watson, IPCC’s Chair in 1996. (Note: Exxon would later play a major role in ousting Watson from this position, in full character in its role as global bully).
1997: Our review of Form 10-K for FY 1997 revealed more of the same, with some variations and, of course, updated financials for fiscal year 1997. Exxon was doing well, holding its superior position in the global marketplace. The fact that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was imposing penalties of up to $25,000 per day for Clean Air Act violations at Exxon’s Baytown, Texas oil refinery was reported almost as a minor nuisance. Again, Exxon’s 10-K was completely devoid of any mention of climate, weather, global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2), or greenhouse gases.
What was the climate change backdrop in 1997?
The most reliable data set for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations being gathered at Mauna Loa Observatory was about to turn 40 years old; Dr. Charles Keeling received a special achievement award from then Vice President Gore at a July 1997 White House ceremony.
The buzz regarding the fossil industry’s wholesale denial of climate change gained some new energy. Journalist Ross Gelbspan published his first book about climate change denial: The Heat is On: The High Stakes Battle over Earth’s Threatened Climate.
Exxon’s leaders were worried and anxious in anticipation of the upcoming climate negotiations among world leaders in December when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was to take place in Kyoto, Japan. Exxon’s Chairman and CEO Lee Raymond delivered a major speech in October 1997 to the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing. He opened by bragging that Exxon had been selling odorless kerosene oil to the Chinese people since 1910 and giving away kerosene lamps, gaining Exxon the nickname “Keepers of Light” among the Chinese people. He noted that the area of the world open for energy development had increased by one third, and emphasized the dominant role of fossil fuels in meeting energy needs. A good part of his speech was devoted to dismissing climate change as a real problem and warning how “tragic” it would be if the region was “deprived of the opportunity for continued prosperity by misguided restrictions and regulations” addressing carbon emissions.
Exxon Corp. was essentially petrified of any sort of global consensus on driving down global greenhouse gas emissions as the result of the upcoming Kyoto climate negotiations. Exxon was not alone: all of the majors in the oil and gas industry, well-represented by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and its so-called Global Climate Science Communications Team, were doing their best to derail an agreement on placing limits on carbon emissions and thus constraining fossil fuel use, as there is no way to “scrub” CO2 out of emissions like we can for the pollutants causing acid rain. Raymond argued:
“Proponents of the [Kyoto Protocol] agreements say they are necessary because burning fossil fuels causes global warming. Many people – politicians and the public alike – believe that global warming is a rock-solid certainty. But it’s not… the case for so called global warming is far from airtight. You would think that all the uncertainty would give political leaders pause. Unfortunately, it hasn’t, and officials continue to insist that agreement is needed in Kyoto.”
Uncertainty (and thus, doubt) is precisely the product Exxon was selling (a notion well-documented in the book authored by Naomi Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt), and its CEO was doing all he could to ensure the message stuck. The brand of doubt and scientific uncertainty being sold was indeed a form of denial, being strategically employed as a tool to help ensure delay of public policy regulating CO2 emissions.
“We need to understand the issue better, and fortunately, we have time,” Raymond assured his audience, “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.” Exxon’s own scientists knew better, as we have since learned through investigations by InsideClimate and others. (And, of course, consensus of the Parties to the UNFCCC was reached anyway, resulting in the Kyoto Protocol.)
1998: The warmest year (on average) on Earth, in the warmest decade, in the warmest century, for at least a thousand years, as noted in a climate change timeline prepared by the World Wildlife Fund.
And yet, Exxon’s Form 10-K for FY 1998, once again, failed to make any mention of climate, global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2), or greenhouse gases. Again, a full paragraph is devoted to ongoing litigation surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill, nearly a decade after the disaster, and Exxon reasserts its belief that punitive damages being sought by federal courts are “unwarranted.” Exxon’s big news for 1998 was that it had successfully merged with Mobil Corporation to become ExxonMobil, a deal that was formally sealed on November 30, 1998.
It’s not like Exxon wasn’t prodded again that year to consider the climate change problem. At its annual shareholders meeting in May 1998, a resolution was proposed asking the company to consider and report on the impact climate change would have on its operations and business, liabilities it might face for contributing to the problem, and how it could cut carbon emissions. After a failed attempt to get the SEC to block the proposal, claiming it “implies a scientific certainty on climate change which, in fact, does not exist,” the resolution was put to a vote and handily defeated, with less than 5% of the shareholders voting yea. (This resolution and others are well-chronicled in the InsideClimate report, Exxon’s 25 Years of ‘No’)
While the public was kept in the dark at the time, we now know that Exxon Corporation’s Washington, DC lobbyist, Randy Randol, contributed substantially to an API internal strategy memo dated April 3, 1998 laying out the scope of a Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan designed to convince “average citizens” and the media of “uncertainties” in scientific findings regarding climate change, despite nearly unanimous agreement in the global scientific community and an abundance of evidence of anthropogenic global warming. The action plan was taken right out of the Big Tobacco playbook for deceiving the public on the health hazards of cigarette smoking, noting that “victory” would be achieved once the notion of scientific uncertainty regarding climate change had been embraced by the general public and policymakers. This diabolical plan was crafted by the Global Climate Science Communications Team whose members, in addition to Exxon’s Randol, included representatives of The Marshall Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, The Southern Company, Chevron Corporation, and the American Petroleum Institute (See the UCS 2015 report The Climate Deception Dossiers).
Attorneys General in California, New York, and other states that may decide to investigate ExxonMobil and other oil companies, to determine whether they misrepresented to shareholders the known risks of climate change and a host of accompanying impacts, should take a hard look at the April 1998 oil industry communications action plan memo in light of what Exxon was telling — and failing to tell — its own investors about the way it perceived the climate change threat.
So, what else was happening in 1998 on the climate change science and policy front?
The newly crafted Kyoto Protocol now required ratification by a requisite number of participating nations, so the question became one of whether the US Senate would take up the matter and ratify the agreement. As we well know, it did not, and hasn’t since.
1998 represented the 40-year mark for continuous measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere taken at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, overseen by Charles Keeling. Levels had risen from 316 parts per million (by volume) in 1958 to 369 ppm in 1998. The upward trend was unmistakable and tracked closely with global fossil fuel use.
The following are citations for some of the scientific papers that were published in 1998; note the publication authored by known climate denier Fred Singer, attempting to plant more seeds of scientific uncertainty:
Keeling, Charles D. (1998). “Rewards and Penalties of Monitoring the Earth.” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 23: 25-82.
Kerr, Richard A. (1998). “Among Global Thermometers, Warming Wins Out.” Science 281: 1948-49.
Mann, Michael E., et al. (1998). “Global-Scale Temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing over the Past Six Centuries.” Nature 392: 779-87
Oppenheimer, Michael (1998). “Global Warming and the Stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” Nature 393: 325-32.
Rosenzweig, Cynthia, and Daniel Hillel (1998). Climate Change and the Global Harvest: Potential Effects of the Greenhouse Effect on Agriculture. New York: Oxford University Press.
Singer, S. Fred (1998). Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate. Oakland, CA: Independent Institute.
1999: The seventh 10-K we reviewed, Form 10-K for FY 1999, followed in the tradition of failing to mention any prospect of climate change or global warming, carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gases. The report does contain, however, extensive discussions of the extraction of Alberta tar sands as part of a joint venture called Syncrude, something Mobil Corp brought to the table in the merger. And, with “Y2K” fast approaching, much discussion was devoted to compliance with requirements for ensuring a smooth transition into the year 2000.
In November 1999, Kenneth P. Cohen was named Vice President, Public & Government Affairs — a position he kept until his forced retirement at age 65 in January 2016. Cohen did his part, and then some, to carry forward the elements of the communications action plan designed to cast in stone a public perception of the inherent uncertainty of climate science. The plan was oft referred to as diabolical in climate change policy circles, and, it worked. Public opinion was swayed, a conclusion that has been verified and well documented in the study by Justin Farrell published by the National Academy of Sciences (see abstract).
Also in 1999, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences published a report, Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade (online here) addressing areas of scientific research needing attention. (See later discussion under 2001).
Some of the more notable scientific papers published in 1999 included:
Immerwahr, John (1999). “Waiting for a Signal: Public Attitudes toward Global Warming, the Environment and Geophysical Research.” New York: Public Agenda
Krabill, William, et al. (1999). “Rapid Thinning of Parts of the Southern Greenland Ice Sheet.” Science 283: 1522-24.
Mann, Michael E., et al. (1999). “Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations.” Geophysical Research Letters 26: 759-62.
Jeremy Leggett authored an insightful book,The Carbon War: Dispatches from the End of the Oil Century, relating a first-hand account of climate negotiations throughout the 1990s. And, again, we see a publication by Fred Singer sowing more doubt and uncertainty:
Singer, S. Fred (1999). “Human Contribution to Climate Change Remains Questionable.” Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 80(16): 183-87.
2000: With apologies for painful repetition, Form 10-K for FY 2000 also avoided mentioning climate change, global warming, carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gases. The merger with Mobil had not only introduced Synfuels to the Exxon portfolio, it had also brought additional problems for the company with the EPA: several refineries and oil production facilities that had been owned and operated by Mobil were penalized and fined for violating federal clean air and water laws.
For the US, it was a historic presidential election year. President Bill Clinton was serving the last year of a two-term presidency. The November election results were too close to call, resulting in a December 12, 2000 landmark decision by the Supreme Court to name George W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States.
Meanwhile, the US Global Change Research Program had finally met one of its more important legal mandates: to produce a scientific assessment report to Congress, due at least once every four years, that:
1. Integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings;
2. Analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity;
3. Analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.For the first time since the GCRA had been passed into law, the USGCRP National Assessment Synthesis Team published and distributed its report to Congress and the public: Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change.
By 2000, even scientific papers reflected the dichotomy of public opinion versus known scientific findings that had high degree of confidence. A certain amount of national cognitive dissonance was well underway, and little imagination is needed to visualize Exxon’s high-fives.
Hansen, James E., et al. (2000). “Climate Modeling in the Global Warming Debate.” In General Circulation Model Development, edited by David A. Randall, pp. 127-64. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Hansen, James E., et al. (2000). “Global Warming in the Twenty-First Century: An Alternative Scenario.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97: 9875-80.
Krosnick, Jon A., et al. (2000). “The Impact of the Fall 1997 Debate About Global Warming on American Public Opinion.” Public Understanding of Science 9: 239-60.
Lovelock, James E. (2000). Homage to Gaia. The Life of an Independent Scientist. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McCright, Aaron M., and Riley E. Dunlap (2000). “Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims.” Social Problems 47: 499-522.
Newell, P. (2000). Climate for Change: Non-State Actors and the Global Politics of the Greenhouse. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Sarewitz, Daniel, and Roger Pielke, Jr. (2000). “Breaking the Global-Warming Gridlock.” Atlantic Monthly, July, pp. 55-64.
Preview to Our Next Post: ExxonMobil’s 10-Ks for 2001-2008
On January 20, 2001 President George W. Bush took office. This would mark the beginning of an unprecedented level of access to the White House for many major oil, gas, and coal companies, including of course, ExxonMobil. One would think that, by now, with all of the compelling evidence from the previous decades, increased world attention to the problem at the level of the United Nations, and the growing sense in the US that we must act decisively to avoid the many problematic impacts carefully outlined in the USGCRP National Assessment report, ExxonMobil might begin to talk about the climate change threat in its Form 10-K for FY 2001.
One would be wrong…
Senior CSPW Contributor Anne Polansky has 30 years of experience in public policies relating to energy and the environment, with a strong focus on climate change and renewable energy.