OAKLAND, Calif. (April 13, 2016)— A trove of documents released today by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) reveals that the oil industry was well aware of the potential climate risks of fossil fuels decades earlier than was widely believed. The uncovered industry communications, scientific papers and oral histories demonstrate that the petroleum industry was conducting climate research as early as 1957 and knew about the potential for catastrophic climate risks by 1968 at the latest.
The documents include a 1957 study, “Radiocarbon Evidence on the Dilution of Atmospheric and Oceanic Carbon by Carbon from Fossil Fuels,” published by scientists working for Humble Oil, a precursor of ExxonMobil. The study looked at how carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion accumulates in the atmosphere and oceans and indicates that scientists affiliated with the fossil fuel industry were not just aware of what happens to the climate when we burn fossil fuels, but were at the leading edge of our understanding of it.
Below is a statement by Adrienne Alvord, California and Western States Director, Union of Concerned Scientists:
“It is shocking and disheartening to see that the fossil fuel industry apparently had knowledge of climate risks from the burning of fossil fuels even earlier than previously believed. Their subsequent public deception campaign in the interest of profit has led to confusion and uncertainty about the consequences of burning oil, gas and coal. Meanwhile, concentrations of greenhouse gases have doubled over the past three decades, exacerbating the costly, damaging effects of climate change that California already is experiencing. The California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act would help ensure that California can hold fossil fuel companies fully accountable for their decades of deception and the damages they have caused to public health, property and the environment in California. We need to ensure that fossil fuel companies won’t be let off the hook for their decades-long campaign of intentional deception about the harmful effects of their products.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org.