Summary: Thirty-two House Democrats this week sent a letter to the CEOs of Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, and Peabody Energy posing 15 questions about the companies’ (alleged) funding of a “massive campaign of [climate] denial and disinformation.” The gist of the letter, which presumes guilt and demands confessions, is captured by the old joke question: “When did you stop beating your wife?”
In a letter sent this week to the CEOs of Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Peabody Energy, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and 30 other House Democrats ask numerous questions about the companies’ (alleged) role in funding a “massive campaign of denial and disinformation” to hide the terrible “truth” about global warming from policymakers and the public.
I reproduce the questions below and provide model answers the companies are welcome to use or adapt at their pleasure.
Q1: When did your company first become aware that using fossil fuels could result in climate change and warming of the planet?
A: The question assumes the idea of anthropogenic global warming is of recent vintage. In fact, the potential of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to warm the Earth was first estimated by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius in 1896. English engineer Guy Callendar made more observationally-constrained estimates in his 1938 study, “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and its Influence on Temperature.” Unlike many scientists (and non-scientists) today, Callendar did not assume anthropogenic climate change is inherently dangerous:
In conclusion it may be said that the combustion of fossil fuel, whether it be peat from the surface or oil from 10,000 feet below, is likely to prove beneficial to mankind in several ways, besides the provision of heat and power. For instance the above mentioned small increases of mean temperature would be important at the northern margin of cultivation, and the growth of favourably situated plants is directly proportional to the carbon dioxide pressure (Brown and Escombe, 1905): In any case the return of the deadly glaciers should be delayed indefinitely.
Since your letter refers to recent journalistic exposés of “what Exxon knew” about climate change, we assume you’re asking what our scientists knew in the 1970s and 1980s. Our answer (h/t David Middleton) is that some of our scientists knew then what NASA scientist James Hansen knew in 1988 — that CO2 emissions would cause two-to-three times more warming than actually occurred.
Figure explanation. Red: Hansen’s business-as-usual (no climate policy) scenario. Orange: Hansen’s emission freeze at 1980s level scenario. Yellow: Hansen’s drastic emission-reduction scenario. Light blue: Remote Sensing System (RSS) satellite temperature record. Dark blue: University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) satellite temperature record. Although emissions increased as much as in Hansen’s BAU scenario, observed temperatures are lower than in Hansen’s drastic emission-reduction scenario. Source: John Christy
[click to continue…]