Fossil fuel industry long aware of climate change threats

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    The oil industry’s knowledge of dangerous climate change stretches back to the 1960s, with unearthed documents showing that it was warned of “serious worldwide environmental changes” more than 45 years ago.

    The Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1968 that warned the release of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels could carry an array of harmful consequences for the planet.

    The emergence of this stark advice follows a series of revelations that the fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change for decades, only to publicly deny its scientific basis.

    “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change,” the 1968 Stanford report, found and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, states. “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.

    “It is clear that we are unsure as to what our long-lived pollutants are doing to our environment; however, there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.”


    States are using a legal strategy like the one used successfully in the 1990s to show that tobacco companies were knowingly endangering public health by hiding what they knew about the addictiveness and health implications of smoking.

    “Similar to the Big Tobacco racketeering case 20 years ago, Exxon has knowingly deceived the government, their shareholders, and the American public for decades,” wrote Guido Girgenti, policy campaigner for environmental advocacy organization in an e-mail to the Monitor.

    “The climate denial testimony Exxon gave to Congress, the climate denial reports Exxon sent to the SEC, and the climate denial ads Exxon took out in newspapers are all examples of Exxon’s fraudulent behavior,” he says.

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