ExxonMobil scientists accurately predicted catastrophic fossil fuel-driven global warming nearly half a century ago

Published Jan 13, 2023

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A study published this week in Science offers a new analysis of ExxonMobil’s global warming projections. The research demonstrates that Exxon scientists accurately projected catastrophic global-warming while lying to spread doubt about climate science. Despite knowing the dangerous impacts its products would have, the company continued to prioritize profits and worked to expand the production of its climate-destroying products.

“Through a growing body of scientific research, investigative journalism, and congressional investigations, we know without a doubt that the fossil fuel industry is responsible for preventable economic and health-related climate damages, deceiving consumers and investors, and delaying the transition to clean energy,” said Kathy Mulvey, the accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “With ample evidence in hand, it is past time to take meaningful steps forward to hold bad actors in the fossil fuel industry accountable.”

“Through legal action, financial penalties, and other approaches, we can provide pathways for justice for people harmed by the greed and deliberately deceptive actions of powerful fossil fuel industry decisionmakers,” Mulvey added.

The Science study was published the same week that federal data revealed that 2022 was one of the hottest years on record, and one of the most deadly and costly in terms of climate and extreme weather disasters. The study also comes in the wake of a House committee investigation in which ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods falsely testified that the company’s communications about climate change have been “consistent with the general consensus in the scientific community.”

Meanwhile, lawsuits filed by cities, counties, and states against ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies over climate damages and fraud are working their way through the courts.

“This new research adds to a growing body of peer-reviewed work that is relevant to climate litigation,” said Dr. Shaina Sadai, Hitz fellow for litigation-relevant science at UCS. “Exxon’s scientists built sophisticated models that accurately projected the temperature rise we are experiencing today, yet the company’s CEOs still chose to publicly cast doubt on climate science and models. The scientists' calculations of the carbon budget were consistent with today’s best estimates, yet the company did not alert investors to the risk that investments in its carbon-intensive business could turn into stranded assets in a carbon-constrained world. The Science study is another blow to the company’s credibility and social license.”

ExxonMobil issued a statement in response to the research yesterday, writing off the conclusions of the peer-reviewed study.

“In its response, ExxonMobil is further pushing disinformation by dismissing the study and engaging in misdirection in citing a court case that did not in fact address climate science,” said Dr. Delta Merner, lead scientist at the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at UCS. “This type of misleading response is something the study highlights as a long-term strategy of ExxonMobil’s. In fact, 29 lawsuits in U.S. courts are further strengthened by this rigorous research published in one of the most well-regarded scientific journals in the world.”