Action and Climate Change: Reasonable Doubt?

In our previous post, we tested Inside Climate News (ICN) Claims about Exxon’s research goals and processes on climate change. Exxon had genuine skepticism about the state of science and supported rational public policies based on science. From computer models of the world’s climate to the Kyoto Protocol, today’s approach does not contradict the company’s early impressions.

Computer modeling

ICN Examples of documents where Exxon officials, advertisers and lobbyists questioned the reliability of computer climate models even though company scientists used such models. In fact, however, climate modeling is always problematic. At Enron’s suggestion, Gerald North, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, said in the late 1990’s:

We don’t know much about modeling climate. It’s as if we’re modeling a man. Models eventually tell us this creature has two arms and two legs, but we are being told to cure cancer.

And:

There is a good reason for the lack of consensus on science. It’s simply too early. The problem is difficult, and there are sadly a few ways to test the climate model.

Economist Reported in 2019 that “predicting climate future is puzzling with uncertainty” because “crude” modeling “misses many details.”

ICN Former Exxon modeling consultant Martin Hafert quotes as suggesting a single defense of early modeling:

Exxon’s science has been spotted on the spot, and the company’s initial modeling estimates have been maintained for more than 30 years, Hoffert Inside told Climate News in an email. The rapid warming of the Arctic and the extreme weakness of the Antarctic ice sheets “are consistent with the results of our theories that predicted them before they happened,” Hফfert wrote.

Hoffert’s “evidence” is strangely specific. Do model predictions apply more than just poles? If fetal models were “correct” in some prophetic sense, what was the right reason? ICN Don’t say

Kyoto Protocol

Several ICN The articles point out that Exxon Mobil opposed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a failed international global climate agreement. Still nowhere ICN Discuss the political issues with the existing agreement from the beginning: big pain for limited participation and trivial gains (0.05 ° temperature drop by 2050). As one scientist put it:

Three scenarios for post-Kyoto emissions reduction [indicate that] The long-term consequences are small … The effects of the protocol, moreover, have not been detected for decades.[1]

Nature Conclusion:

The Kyoto target itself is relatively low in tackling climate change … so we need to think seriously about how we can best adapt to climate change..[2]

Discretion vs. ‘Negativism’

In an article, ICN Accuses the company’s lobbyist of being a “denier,” without defining the term. Richard Mueller, a physicist and philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, has helpfully identified six categories in the “Classification of Climate Change Thinkers”: Alarmist, Exaggerator, Warmist, Lookwormist, Skeptic, and Denialist.[3]

ICN Claims that an Exxon Mobil ad was misleading, neglecting to mention the ad statement:

Science has given us enough information that climate change could pose a long-term risk … As a result, people, companies and governments must take responsible action now to tackle the problem.

The operative words are “may be” and “responsible.” May Meaning “possible”, not “possible”. The risk is not equal to the risk of disaster, and the risk of overreaching should also be considered. “Responsible action” certainly does not include compromising with affordable, abundant, reliable energy sources, which makes US policy for world governance much less relevant.

Company alternatives?

In its fifth article, ICN Note that “Clifton Garvin, CEO of Exxon, in a speech dated April 1981, did not mention global warming among environmental risks, saying that the industry would be ‘primarily responsible for the solution’.” ICN Indicates that Exxon Mobil should have taken an exclusive, risky approach to climate science to move the company away from carbon-based energy. What?? Exxon, in fact, has invested in renewables.Unsuccessfully. ICN Never mentions Exxon’s 15-year advancement in solar power, which ended in 1984.

Exxon entered solar power in 1969 (wind power was not a business then) and became the market leader with sales in 35 countries. Fully owned subsidiaries Solar Power Corporation and Duster have abandoned it due to high costs and financial losses. As Joseph Pratt and William Hale wrote, “Solar energy may eventually become price competitive and play an important long-term role as a major renewable energy source,” but Exxon’s core competencies in oil and natural gas were rarely applied directly to solar power operations. Or development. “[4]

In early 1969, Exxon invested heavily in uranium mining and enrichment activities. Under the leadership of Lee Raymond, Exxon Nuclear Corporation was never profitable and was sold in 1986.[5]

In recent years, the company has bankrolled research into biofuels derived from algae, with little success so far. Business profits are important, and renewable industries are always risky and government-dependent.

ICNIndications that Exxon’s oil and gas production should have been abandoned in light of the climatic conditions and the company’s fiduciary responsibilities না not to mention the loss to consumers and the nation. Currently billions of lives depend on fossil fuels. Their replacement will require enormous scientific, technological, infrastructural, political, regulatory and diplomatic advances – successes that are beyond the capacity of Exxon or even the entire oil industry.

Or the Biden administration, if we can take their word for it, believe we can give up fossil fuels. President Biden himself declared, “… no one expected that this year we would be in a position where, even next year, we would no longer use oil or gas.” Late last year, DOE Secretary Jennifer Granhome advised U.S. drillers: “Count your rigs.” And even as John Kerry admits, “but you can’t shut down the economy of everyone across the planet and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to use oil’ or whatever.”

Conclusion

After reviewing thousands of internal documents, ICN Didn’t find a “smoking gun” – that is, a document that said something like: “Although we know that global warming is an impending threat, we are going to obscure it to protect our core business.” Instead, the author, on a conviction mission, finds documents written by different employees with different beliefs at different times. That the leaders of Exxon believe differently from them ICNIts journalists are rarely disgusting, much less criminal.

[1] TML Wigley, “Kyoto Protocol: CO2CH4 And the effects of climate, ” Geophysical Research Letter 25, no. 13 (July 1, 1998), pages 2285–88.

[2] Martin Parry, Nigel Arnell, Robert Nichols and Matthew Livermore, “Adapting to the Inevitability,” Nature 395 (October 22, 1998), p. 741.

[3] Elsewhere, ICN writes about “5 Shades of Denial”, pushing the deniers into the political box without serious analysis.

[4] Pratt and Hale, p. 189.

[5] Pratt and Hale, pp. 185-89.


Co-authored by Robert Bradley Jr. and Richard Fulmer Primer Energy: The main resource (2004) and other writings on free-market energy and climate policy.

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