The primary objectives and initiatives of Exxon’s climate and energy research were to lessen the company’s dependency on fossil fuels and to discover a cleaner, more efficient ways to generate electricity. Research conducted by Exxon has contributed to the development of renewable energy sources like nuclear, solar, and wind power. Exxon began investigating in the 1980s whether or not greenhouse gas emissions were a driver of global warming. The company has since funded many studies on climate change.
The global price of oil spiked significantly in the early 1980s due to several factors, including the Iranian Revolution and the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War. Exxon’s business model was drastically altered; the corporation had to hike prices and reduce output to remain profitable. Oil prices rose; thus, Exxon redirected its efforts away from energy development and toward decreasing its reliance on oil. Several renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and nuclear, have been developed thanks to the company’s efforts in this study area.
How did Exxon change course?
Exxon shifted its focus in the early 1980s in response to a worldwide spike in oil prices. Organizational efforts are now directed toward reducing oil consumption rather than energy research. Exxon’s efforts have resulted in several alternative energy sources like nuclear, solar, and wind power.
Who was Lee Raymond, and what was his role in the changes at Exxon?
Former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond served in that role from 1999 to 2005. He agreed with management’s decision to halt energy research in favour of diversifying away from oil. Exxon has increased its support for climate science under Raymond’s leadership.
Late in the 20th century, scientists reevaluated their previous assumptions about the greenhouse effect and its potential impact on Earth’s climate. Multiple studies have established a connection between human-caused global warming and emissions of greenhouse gases. Because of this shift in scientific perspective, climate change has gone from being a distant environmental concern to a pressing international one.
How did this impact the industry’s actions around climate?
Climate change was once considered a long-term environmental problem. Still, as more was discovered about the greenhouse effect and how it may modify the climate of Earth, the situation was elevated to that of a global emergency. This shifted awareness had a significant impact on the way corporations handled climate change by prompting them to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
The initial strategy of the industry was to ignore the actual causes of climate change and instead focus on the financial burden of reducing emissions. This strategy was developed to forestall the implementation of the BTU tax, which would have imposed a cost on energy consumption. The Cato Institute, Koch Industries, and Citizens for a Sound Economy funded the bulk of this study. Their actions were motivated by a desire to shield the fossil fuel industry from regulation that could reduce profits.
Was it successful?
The industry’s initial response to the BTU tax was successful. However, researchers kept confirming that human activities contribute to climate change.
What did the industry players learn from the experience?
Industry members understood they needed to take a more proactive stance in shaping the public’s perception of climate change. Another thing they learned was that they couldn’t stop scientists from agreeing on the truth of climate change driven by humans.
The fossil fuel sector has taken advantage of the Grand Fog to delay taking action to combat climate change. To lessen the impact of global warming, some businesses used this forward-thinking approach to formulate their mitigation strategies. The business world used this line of reasoning to argue that there was no need to address climate change because the science was flawed. By employing this strategy, we were able to successfully put off dealing with the effects of climate change for a considerable amount of time. For instance, the private sector paid the funds for studies that called into question the reliability of the science behind climate change. Then they put pressure on the media to ensure that they presented both sides of the discussion objectively (i.e. presenting both sides of the debate, even though the science was clear that human-caused climate change was real and happening). Using this tactic for a considerable amount of time proved successful in postponing taking action on the issue of climate change. In 1997, the Byrd-Hagel Resolution received enough votes to be approved by the Senate. The US government stated that it would not ratify any international climate change agreement that would harm the economy or prevent developing nations from being required to reduce their emissions. This statement was made in response to the Paris Climate Accord, which the US government also stated that it would not ratify. Senators Byrd and Hagel, who strongly support the fossil fuel industry, voted in favour of the legislation. Trade associations pressured the media to deliver accurate information (i.e. presenting both sides of the debate, even though the science was clear that human-caused climate change was real and happening). The implementation of real solutions to the problem of climate change was put back by decades as a result of this proposal.
A strategy of ambiguity or denial of climate change was developed in the late 1980s as scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and its possible effects on the climate of Earth expanded during that period. The industry that deals in fossil fuels took the lead in this movement, which focused more on the financial cost of decreasing emissions than on the reality of climate change itself. Even though this tactic successfully stopped the BTU tax from being enacted, it did not prevent scientists from concluding that human activity is the principal driver of climate change. The tactic of denying or sowing seeds of doubt about the reality of climate change has undergone major revision at the hands of the Global Climate Coalition. The fossil fuel industry established this organization to discredit the field of climate science and bring attention to the high cost of decreasing emissions. It is also important to highlight the substantial part that the E. Bruce Harrison Company played in accomplishing this goal. This organization was tasked with writing a study paper by the Global Climate Coalition to play down the seriousness of climate change. The Global Climate Coalition commissioned the creation of a series of articles by climate scientist Don Rheem to undermine the nearly universal consensus among climate scientists regarding climate change. Patrick Michaels, who spoke before Congress on behalf of the Global Climate Coalition, was financially compensated for playing down the seriousness of climate change.
Jewell, J., & Cheap, A. (2020). On the political feasibility of climate change mitigation pathways: is it too late to keep warming below 1.5Â° C?Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 11(1), e621.
Bos, K., & Gupta, J. (2019). Stranded assets and stranded resources: Implications for climate change mitigation and global sustainable development. Energy Research & Social Science, 56, 101215.
Hausfather, Z., Drake, H. F., Abbott, T., & Schmidt, G. A. (2020). Evaluating the performance of past climate model projections. Geophysical Research Letters, 47(1), e2019GL085378.
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