The Exxon Climate Papers

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has accused ExxonMobil of lying to the public and investors about the risks of climate change according to the NY Times and has launched an investigation and issued a subpoena demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents. Massachusetts, the US Virgin Islands, and California are also investigating ExxonMobil. It is interesting that all but one of the attorneys general are Democrats. The remaining attorney general is Claude Walker of the US Virgin Islands who is a Green leaning Independent. So, this is a very partisan investigation, carefully coordinated with anti-fossil fuel activists. How much is there to it?

I’ve reviewed the 22 internal documents from 1977 to 1989 made available by ExxonMobil here. I’ve also reviewed what I could find on 104 publications (most are peer-reviewed) with ExxonMobil personnel as authors or co-authors. For some of the peer-reviewed articles I only had an abstract and for some I could find the reference but no abstract or text without paying a fee. Below this short essay is an annotated bibliography of all 22 internal documents and 89 of the published papers. The documents are interesting reading, they fill in the history of modern climate science very well. Much of the current debate on climate change was being debated in the same way, and often with the same uncertainties, in 1977.

Between 1977 and the fifth IPCC report in 2013 ExxonMobil Corporate Research in New Jersey investigated the effect of increasing CO2 on climate. If they withheld or suppressed climate research from the public or shareholders, it is not apparent in these documents. Further, if they found any definitive evidence of an impending man-made climate catastrophe, I didn’t see it. The climate researchers at ExxonMobil participated in the second, third, fourth and fifth IPCC assessment reports making major contributions in mapping the carbon cycle and in climate modeling. They calculated the potential impact of man-made CO2 in several publications. They investigated methods of sequestering CO2 and adapting to climate change. They also investigated several potential biofuels.

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