Exposé showed ExxonMobil avoided excess carbon pollution in 1980s

Oil company ExxonMobil has been concerned about carbon-caused climate change since the early 80s, a former employee and climate expert revealed.

Early this month Exxon claimed that it acknowledged the risk of climate change and that it did not fund climate change denial groups, however an email from Exxon’s in-house climate expert showed the company was taking steps to avoid global warming pollution as early as 1981.

However, The Guardian reported that for decades the company spent more than $30 million on thinktanks and researchers to promote climate denial, even ignoring the requests of the Rockefeller family, which founded Exxon.

The email written by ExxonMobil engineer and climate expert Lenny Bernstein said Exxon  abandoned plans to develop the Natuna gas field in Indonesia because it was 70 per cent carbon dioxide.

“When I first learned about the project in 1989, the projections were that if Natuna were developed and its CO2 vented to the atmosphere, it would be the largest point source of CO2 in the world and account for about one per cent of projected global CO2 emissions,” Bernstein wrote.

“I’m sure that it would still be the largest point source of CO2, but since CO2 emissions have grown faster than projected in 1989, it would probably account for a smaller fraction of global CO2 emissions,” Bernstein wrote.

The email was written to the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University, in response to an enquiry about business ethics.

Bernstein said Exxon was well-ahead of other companies in their awareness of the potential for climate change risks to lead to regulatory changes such as carbon taxes.

“Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue,” he said.

“Natural resource companies – oil, coal, minerals – have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50-100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations.

“Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question – legitimately, in my opinion – the validity of some of the science.”

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