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Exxon’s ‘Excellent Scientists’ Knew Back in 1982 Exactly How Bad Climate Change Would Be Now

A former Exxon scientist just spilled the truth to Congress.

by Alex Lubben
Oct 23 2019, 8:54pm

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A former Exxon scientist just testified before Congress that, not only did Exxon know that the fossil fuels it was selling would torch the world, the company knew back in 1982 exactly how bad climate change would be in 2019.

“We were excellent scientists,” the former employee, Martin Hoffert, told lawmakers Wednesday.

The hearing before the House Oversight Committee was brought together to assess the extent to which Exxon knew decades ago that the core of its business — extracting and selling fossil fuels — was making the world hotter.

It’s long been known that Exxon knew, as early as the late 1970s, that fossil fuels were contributing to climate change. The company also actively made an effort to try to get the public to think fossil fuels weren’t contributing to climate change through elaborate and expensive PR campaigns.

By the early 1980s, scientists there had developed predictions for how much carbon would be in the atmosphere, if fossil fuels continued to burn, and how hot that would make the world — and they were accurate.

“Dr. Hoffert, your work with Exxon was focused on the carbon cycle and on climate modelling,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said. She then pointed to a graph, displayed on a screen on the wall of the hearing room, that Exxon scientists had drawn up in 1982.

“What it shows is a projection into the future of carbon dioxide levels and climate change associated with those carbon dioxide levels, coming from fossil fuels,” Hoffert explained. “It’s a very accurate representation of what today’s climate change actually is.”

“So in 1982 — seven years before I was even born — Exxon accurately predicted that by this year, 2019, the Earth would hit a carbon dioxide concentration of 415 parts per million and a temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Dr. Hoffert, is that correct?”

It was.

Exxon is now facing additional scrutiny for how it accounted for climate change. A high-profile case, brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office, accuses the company of defrauding is investors by misleading them on the projected cost of climate change regulations. The trial was unfolding in a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday, at the same time as the hearing on the hill.

The Republicans on the House committee, however, argued that the public should thank Exxon, regardless of whether the company contributed to climate change.

“We have companies that are creating energy for the world,” said Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas. He suggested that we should honor the fossil fuel companies that are producing the energy that powers the country — even if they also happen to be heating up the planet catastrophically.

Watch the exchange here:

Cover image: Demonstrators hold a banner that reads "Exxon Knew" during a protest on the first day of the ExxonMobil Corp. trial outside the New York State Supreme Court building in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. (David 'Dee' Delgado/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

climate change
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez