1981 – Exxon Internal Documents Hint at “Catastrophic” Climate Changes

September 22, 2015

More astounding documents dumped as part of Inside Climate News’ incredible investigation of Exxon’s internal climate science program.

Above, current Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson acknowledges the reality of climate in 2012. We didn’t know the half of it.

By all means go to the link and read. Here’s a taste.

Inside Climate News:

“When I arrived there, I was quite surprised to discover that people in the research lab were very aware of the increase in the growth rate of carbon dioxide measurements in Hawaii [at the Mauna Loa observatory],” Morrel H. Cohen, a senior scientist at Exxon Research from 1981 to 1996, said in a recent interview. “They were very aware of the greenhouse effect.”

As the researchers alerted Exxon’s upper management about the CO2 problem, the scientists worked to provide better estimates of when the warming trend would create noticeable damage, and how large the impacts might be.

One scientist, Werner Glass, wrote an analysis in 1981 for a senior vice president that said the rise in global temperatures would begin to be noticed in a few decades. But Glass hedged his bet, saying the magnitude of the change would be “well short of catastrophic” in the early years.

Exxon manager Roger Cohen saw things differently.

“I think that this statement may be too reassuring,” Cohen, director of the Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory at Exxon Research, wrote in an August 18, 1981 memo to Glass.

He called it “distinctly possible” that the projected warming trend after 2030 “will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population).”

Cohen continued: “This is because the global ecosystem in 2030 might still be in a transient, headed for much significant effects after time lags perhaps of the order of decades.”

Cohen demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the climate system. He recognized that even if the impacts were modest in 2030, the world would have locked in enough CO2 emissions to ensure more severe consequences in subsequent decades. By 2030, he warned, the damage could be irreversible.

Unanimous Agreement

“Over the past several years a clear scientific consensus has emerged regarding the expected climatic effects of increased atmospheric CO2,” Cohen wrote to A.M. Natkin of Exxon Corporation’s Science and Technology Office in 1982. “The consensus is that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from its pre-industrial revolution value would result in an average global temperature rise of (3.0 ± 1.5)°C.” (Equal to 5.4 ± 2.7°F).

Memo from Roger Cohen, director of the Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory at Exxon Research, to A. M. Natkin of the Exxon Office of Science and Technology

“There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

Exxon’s own modeling research confirmed this and the company’s results were later published in at least three peer-reviewed science articles. Two of them were co-authoredby Hoffert, and a third was written entirely by Flannery.

Exxon scientists tracked global carbon fluxes, much as climate scientists do today.

Exxon scientists tracked global carbon fluxes, much as climate scientists do today.

Anyone who eats food, drinks water, or has children, should be reeling from this story – and yet I find almost no mention of this in the mainstream media as yet.  Anyone that has seen anything on this, let me know.


22 Responses to “1981 – Exxon Internal Documents Hint at “Catastrophic” Climate Changes”

  1. Amazing how simple, accurate and concise climate science was before the Republican Party went all “southern strategy” on it.

    • Amazing how simple, accurate and concise climate science was before the Democrat Party and Al Gore / Tim Wirth went all “southern strategy” on it.

      Jeez louise, did you characters NOT read the 4 sentences prior to what InsideClim wanted you to focus on about “consensus”? 2nd paragraph, 1st 4 sentences: http://insideclimatenews.org/sites/default/files/documents/%2522Consensus%2522%20on%20CO2%20Impacts%20%281982%29.pdf

      Crow all you want about this so-called evidence of Exxon ‘knowing’ the true climate science, but where you run into a solid brick wall is dredging up any evidence of them subsequently instructing/paying skeptics to lie. Y’all’s obsession with the RICO stuff is guaranteed to torpedo this whole effort by exposing how you’ve never had any evidence of pay-for-performance conspiracy. I repeat: THAT is the cancer eating the issue away from the inside out.

      • pbjamm Says:

        OK, I read it:

        Although the increase of atmospheric CO2 is well documented.
        it has not yet resulted in a measurable change in the
        earth’s climate. The concerns surrounding the possible effects
        of increased CO, have been based on the predictions of models
        which simulate the earth’s climate. These models vary widely in
        the level of detail in which climate processes are treated and in
        the approximations used to describe the complexities of these
        processes. Consequently the quantitative predictions derived
        from the various models show considerable variation.
        They were early crude models. There was variation in their predictions. Consensus was still that the increase in CO2 would warm the planet 3C (or so). Really not that different from our expectations 30+ years later.

        • Sidestep, sidestep, sidestep.

          “…the increase of atmospheric CO2 is well documented. It has not yet resulted in a measurable change in the earth’s climate.”

          Do I really have to spell that out for you?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            No, Russell, let US spell it out for YOU. You have cherry picked and tried to make a case where none exists. That was said THIRTY-THREE years ago, and a LOT more was said along with it in the same document to qualify and clarify what was meant. I’ve pointed that out in other comments.

            We are TODAY finding that it’s ALL coming true, and much of it is even worse than those early models predicted—-the greater than expected loss of Arctic sea ice, for instance—-that thing I have tried to get you to discuss maybe a dozen times now?

            But you keep hiding from debating any real science and just keep chanting “Gelbspan, Gore, Gelbspan, Gore” (as if that meant anything) and “prove it, prove it, prove it” about things that are self evident to all but the deluded..

            YOU are the “side-stepper” here, Russell. But of course that’s what Heartland pays you to do—-attempt to side-step, deflect, distract, obfuscate, and deny the truth. (They’re paying you too much, because you’re not very good at it).

          • pbjamm Says:

            Russel I do not recall ever encountering you online before but obviously dOG has so I will assume you are serious. First your claim that I was sidestepping the statement you quoted is ridiculous since it was included in my comment. Second, the idea that it is relevant to today is even more ridiculous. Take note that this statement was made 33 years ago not 33 days. Satellite temperature measurements (favorite of contrarians everywhere) were in their infancy and no clear trend was yet describable from noise. I am not sure what longer records had been compiled in 1982 but even if you pretend that something as comprehensive as HADCRUT4 was available the trend it showed as still withing the bounds of noise. It would be many years before the trend was clearly discernible so the statement that “…the increase of atmospheric CO2 is well documented. It has not yet resulted in a measurable change in the earth’s climate” is a completely expected and honest statement for the time it was made. To make such a claim now would be the exact opposite however. New data is gathered and progress marches on.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            In order to “encounter Russell online” you would have to visit denier sites. Russell is part of the denier blogosphere and is only welcome there. He has been banned from some of the legitimate climate change sites because of his stupidity and dishonesty, but Peter is far more liberal and has allowed Russell to keep coming to Crock, where Russell serves as a poster child for idiot deniers and paid denier whores.

            He knows no science and has little in the way of logic skills, so you waste your time trying to have an intelligent discussion with him (to say nothing of the fact that he makes his living denying climate change and thus has financial motivation to prevaricate).

            I have indeed “encountered” Russell before, and will warn you that you will NOT get a satisfactory response from him. I have asked him certain questions more than a dozen times and have never even gotten an acknowledgment that he read them.

            Watch the first 30 seconds of this clip—it will tell you all you need to know about Russell—and out of HIS OWN MOUTH.

            WARNING: Do NOT be tempted to go to his website. It is dangerous to do so. I had a temporary loss of 10 IQ points after my first visit there.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Leave it Russell to do another “…look!…look at page 269 of Merchants of Doubt—right here Gelbspan and Gore said, sputter, sputter…” routine and try to make something significant out of the “…2nd paragraph, 1st 4 sentences” of a document.

        Russell doesn’t know enough science (or English, or logic) to properly interpret those sentences or that whole document, but his particular moral and mental illness and deficiencies (advanced AGW denialism and being a paid whore for fossil fuel) DOES make it easy for him to take even the tiniest parts of various writings out of context and try to make them mean something other than what they really say.

        In its totality, that “consensus” memo he links, combined with the Cohen quotes in this post, is shocking beyond belief. THIRTY-THREE years ago, Exxon scientists tried to get Exxon to do the right thing. Russell conveniently fails to emphasize the last paragraph and particularly the last sentence in the document he links, which states:

        “…Exxon should continue to conduct scientific research in this area…our ethical responsibility is to permit the publication of our research in the scientific literature: indeed to do otherwise is a breach of Exxon’s public position and ethical credo on honesty and integrity”.

        Russell closes with his stock cry of “prove it, prove it, prove it”, again refusing to accept the fact that Exxon STOPPED doing the research, and STARTED supporting denier scientists—that is proven by the release of these documents and others, constitutes very bad behavior on their part, and is all the proof we need.

        It’s laughable that Russell continues to maintain that he spouts the BS he does because he “seeks truth” rather than because he is paid $30,000+ a year by Heartland, perhaps the biggest purveyor of denier horsepucky on the planet.

        We shall see if any RICO prosecutions of fossil fuel companies or climate deniers ever come about. Let’s hope it happens. If nothing else, it should be attempted just to worry them to death and keep them occupied. One thing IS sure, when they come for deniers, Russell will be one of the first picked up. There is plenty of “proof” of his part in Heartland’s activities (the head-idiot-denier-in-charge Fred Singer even puts Russell on the address list for emails).

        As far as “….THAT is the cancer eating the issue away from the inside out”, Russell’s cluelessness makes it impossible for him to see that HE and his denier cronies, as well as the Exxon folks who made the decisions condemned here, are the “cancer”. Go away, Russell. The end game draws closer, and your “exit strategy” of running your mouth is going to guarantee that you’ll be one of the first ones we “characters” stand against the wall. What you SHOULD be doing is looking for a rock to hide under.

        • And predictably “d.o.g.” literally cannot dispute a word I say at my blog or even bring himself to describe it in a factual accurate manner. Nor can he prove I’m paid one dime by Heartland, and he can’t even get the tally of the strings-free grant (a.k.a. GIFT) correct, and he further embarrasses himself by using the “denier” label. Much as he’d love to tie me to Heartland with a cc in Dr Singer’s emails, he couldn’t explain how it is that I was emailing with Dr Singer eight years prior to having any type of association with Heartland.

          Pure psychological projection, gents. It is your end game that is drawing closer. Believe that what I say warrants condemnation, but always remember that impartial judicial strangers bound by parameters of the law don’t care what you believe, they only care what you can prove. When you have no evidence, that is your ultimate undoing. Once again, this is your wakeup call about that cancerous problem.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Russell, Please DO tell us “…how it is that you were emailing with Dr Singer eight years prior to having any type of association with Heartland”. I’ve asked you many times to explain your connection to Singer and why you’re on his address list, and it’s up to YOU to explain that, NOT me. So far, you have refused to do that—-you refuse to really address any of “us” on Crock as you keep side-stepping and trying to turn everything back to your tired one note song.

            Why would I or anyone else want to waste the time and energy to “dispute” the utter nonsense and denier BS that you post on your so-called blog (and that IS a “factual description” of it—-utter nonsense and denier BS posted by a paid Heartland whore). I’d rather sit here on Crock and wait for you to appear here where we can all witness YOUR embarrassment.

            I’m going to give my conjectural thoughts on “why you were emailing with Dr. Singer etc”. Try to keep up.
            1) Singer has been a known AGW denier for 25 or more years now.
            2) Singer started SEPP and has been affiliated with Heartland for many years(and is a beneficiary of Exxon money).
            3) You were not succeeding in the fields you were educated in—-business and graphic design—-and looked for a new career to take up.
            4) You somehow hit upon writing about climate change denial as a possibility, perhaps because the morons who are deniers are so cognitively dissonant that they will NEVER accept truth, and therefore you’d have a job for life misinforming them.
            5) You looked at the various groups that might employ you and found that Heartland was the least scrupulous and was well endowed with dirty money from the fossil fuel interests.
            6) So you “auditioned” for Heartland by writing comments on various sites and blogs, making sure to suck up to Singer by CC’ing him and asking his advice, etc. You did that for years.
            7) Just about the time that you were living in your mother’s basement and starving to death, Singer finally came through for you and put you on the Heartland payroll, and here you are. You explained all that on your own site. (And did you beg?)

            That’s the Occam’s Razor solution, Russell. Don’t ask me to prove it, because it’s the only solution that makes sense. Only a climate change denier would bother communicating at any length with Singer. Can you give a better explanation of why you emailed him for eight years? Do you really expect us to believe that your paycheck from Heartland is NOT a quid pro quo for your publishing lies? We have all worked for a paycheck, Russell, and our employers paid us because we supported the goals of the organization we worked for—-that’s a “conservative” value, and Heartland is a “conservative” group.

            As for “Believe that what I say warrants condemnation, but always remember that impartial judicial strangers bound by parameters of the law don’t care what you believe, they only care what you can prove”, keep posting here and giving us the “proof” we need to hang you one day. Once CAGW sets in, there will be no “impartial judicial strangers”—-they will be replaced by vigilantes. (And I for one do not condemn “what you say”—I condemn YOU, the mentally and morally deficient slug that is doing the talking),

  2. blied7656 Says:

    Deeply disquieting.

  3. Sean Munger Says:

    Astonishing. In a sane world the cover-up of this information would lead to prosecutions. I don’t think Exxon will be punished, but they should be.

  4. firstdano Says:

    Wow. Talk about a damning document. That’s reeeeeeally bad human territory.



  5. […] revealed documents show that Exxon’s own scientists were aware of and studying the dangerous impacts of greenhouse gases in the 1970s and 1980s — until […]

  6. jimbills Says:

    “Anyone who eats food, drinks water, or has children, should be reeling from this story – and yet I find almost no mention of this in the mainstream media as yet. Anyone that has seen anything on this, let me know.”

    That’s a REALLY, really important point. I don’t see any evidence of it in the mainstream media, either, and the story itself is significant news. The only answer, unfortunately, would have to be to look at Exxon’s ad revenues as the reason. Few would be willing to bite the hand that feeds it.

    That, plus the fact the story was only raised by an independent source and PBS, shows how a non-corporate media is vital to an informed electorate – a prerequisite for a vital and functional democracy. The more the media is corporate, profit-driven, and advertiser dependent, and the less it is independent and/or publicly owned and funded, the more dysfunctional our democracy is. It’s a pretty obvious connection, so it’s completely ignored by many.

    The internet allows any voice to appear to many, which is good, but it also hammered print media’s subscription-based revenue model. Print media used to be funded both by the people and advertisers, and it had a greater motive to explore issues freely than it does now, when most to all of its revenue comes from advertisers. Additionally, in the Congress these days, we see frequent attempts to control both the freedom of the internet and to slash funding for the only publicly-owned media source we do have. These are horrific signs for the future of our democracy.

  7. earlosatrun Says:

    How much money does the media get from their investments in their fossil fuel companies?

    Play another game of Monopoly, it’s how capitalism ends.

    By which I mean to say, that the people who profit off of the system own the companies that would have reported on the situation.

  8. […] for the last few months has been the extend to which Exxon Mobil’s position on climate change may not be entirely honest. Evidence is surfacing that Exxon funded its own private research into climate change starting in […]

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