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Big Oil and Climate Change

It was not in the early 1980s, nor the late 1970s, but the mid-1950s that the alarm bells on the risks of climate change began to ring within the oil companies. It was expected.

In 2015, a series of journalistic investigations revealed that from 1977 to 1987, oil multinationals and other giants in the industry had concluded that global warming was a real risk, based on their scientific research.

Later, these companies started spending millions of dollars on public relations and lobbying to convince politicians and the general public that global warming does not exist; and even if it did exist, it was only a natural phenomenon and big oil companies were not responsible for it.

In 2016, environmental law researchers updated and republished an older report, which dated back to 1968. The report was then submitted to the American Petroleum Institute, and they were warned about the risk of too much carbon di oxide production to the planet.

Yet, demand for oil is rapidly increasing and the energy industry, both in the US and internationally, is planning hefty multi-trillion-dollar investments in order to meet it.

Now, new documents are making the need to examine things further. In 1954, geochemist Harrison Brown and his peers at the prestigious California Institute of Technology presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) on "The Determination of Variations and Causes of Carbon Isotope Composition in Nature." In other words, these researchers confirmed what others were beginning to suspect: the planet underwent a relatively recent rise in the production of carbon di oxide in the atmosphere and water after the levels of gas remained constant for thousands of years.

Over the period of the next four years, IPY would fund the research projects to develop more accurate methods to calculate the production of carbon dioxide. In 1959, a physicist Edward Teller - one of the fathers of the H bomb - addressed the leaders of the oil industry to prevent them from taking actions that increased the risk of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He predicted that the temperatures and the water levels would rise simultaneously by the end of the current century.

These warnings and reports are a great surprise for climatology and climatologists, which is considered to be the key date in 1960. That year, a scientist named Charles Keeling published in the journal Tellus about the results of measurements of the atmosphere taken in Antarctica for three years.

He wrote that the concentration of carbon di oxide increased almost at the rate that we would expect given the global ignition of fossil fuels. Atmospheric science today refers to the gradual increase of carbon di oxide in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial age as the Keeling Curve.

It was these public warnings and data that led the US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to issue a document warning about the risks of global warming caused by human activity 53 years ago.

Regardless of how much big oil companies try to focus their investor relations on their climate mitigating activities, most of these companies can’t change the basic fact that their main products are hydrocarbons that are causing climate change.

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