Old oil ads were justified for climate change

In an article in November 2021 Guardian, Authors Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Orescase একজন a research collaborator and a professor at Harvard’s Department of Science History-have been criticized for advertising Big Oil that the authors claim is misleading or bad. Lest there be any doubt about the author’s conclusion, the article, The forgotten oil ads that told us about climate change were nothingClassified under: Climate crime.

The author makes seven distinct allegations. The first is that oil companies have been aware of global warming and its potentially devastating effects for six decades, yet industry advertising has falsely promoted:

  • As a global warming theory, not true
  • The uncertainty of climate science
  • Economic panic
  • The fault of the consumers
  • False solutions (“greenwashing”)
  • “We are part of the solution” claims

To make their case, Supran and Orescase cite ads that they find particularly disgusting. But were the ads deadly at the time? And they are today?

Did the oil company know?

The authors present three proofs:

  1. Physicist said. Edward Taylor stated in a 1959 API-organized symposium that “a temperature increase consistent with a 10 percent increase in carbon dioxide would be enough to melt ice and submerge New York.”
  2. “An internal action study warns of ‘dramatic environmental impact’ before 2050.”
  3. “In the late 1970’s,” a former Exxon scientist recalled, “global warming was no longer predictable.”

This evidence is incredible. First, Taylor was wrong. In 1959, the global atmospheric CO2 level was 318 ppm (parts per million). Today, it is one-third more and growing. Yet the ice cap has not melted, and New York City is comfortably above sea level.

The Exxon study with which Supran and Orescase were linked by a summer employee and the accompanying cover memo (written, presumably by a supervisor) provide important context:

Current climate models predict that the current trend of fossil fuel use will lead to dramatic climate change in the next 75 years. However, it is not clear whether these changes will be all bad or all good.

It must be realized that there is a lot of uncertainty in existing climate models due to poor understanding of atmospheric / terrestrial / oceanic CO2 balance. Much more study and research is needed in this area before recommending major changes in the use of energy types

Finally, in the 1970s, contrary to the assumptions made by a former Exxon employee (a chemical engineer, not a climate scientist), Global cooling There was a reigning fear, not global warming.

Furthermore, there is still no judgment on the transaction between global cooling from sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and global warming from CO2. Inside Ecoscience: population, resources, environment (1977: p. 686), Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren write:

[T]The notion that man-made warming tendencies to override natural cooling tendencies may be of little consolation here. Since the two trending factors affect different parts of the Earth’s complex climate apparatus, the corresponding effects on the circulation pattern are unlikely to outweigh each other.

As global warming theory, not real?

The predominance of ethnographic global warming is now widely accepted as true, although quantity, timing, and response remain open questions. But when the questionable ads were published, that was the truth No. Has yet to be established. James Hansen’s 1988 Senate testimony declaring ethnocentric global warming was particularly controversial. As Richard Kerr writes Science Next year’s magazine:

If many of Hansen’s colleagues find his first point sad about the warming trend, they see his second – warming that can be linked to the greenhouse effect, with “high confidence” – is unforgivable. None of the greenhouse researchers selected at the meeting could agree with him. Michael Schlesinger, a model at Oregon State University, said, “Taken together, his statements have made people feel that the greenhouse effect has definitely been identified.” “Our current understanding does not support this.”

Scientific uncertainty?

The title of the ad The lies they tell our children (Mobile Oil: 1984) lists half a dozen environmental threats, including the greenhouse effect, which Herbert I. A 13-year-old girl from London was sent home crying from school. He was taught that threats would destroy his future, inspire London to write, Why are they lying to our children? The ad quotes a book from London, which records real progress in reducing pollution – progress that has been rapid since then.

The second ad, Apocalypse no (Mobile Oil: 1993), directly dealing with global warming. It refers to Heidelberg Appeal Signed by more than 250 scientists around the world, who warned against making important environmental decisions based on “pseudo-scientific reasoning or false and irrelevant information.”

The ad lists some of the uncertainties surrounding climate change – uncertainties that still exist today, almost 30 years later – such as “the interaction between oceans and atmospheres,” the complexity of clouds, and the inability of computer models to accurately “back-estimate” global temperatures in the last century.

Science: What we know and don’t know (Mobil: 1997), provides an overview of the problems surrounding CO2 emissions. It noted that “the IPCC lead author acknowledged the underlying ‘uncertainty’ of computer climate modeling” – the uncertainty that still exists. The ad also questions the effectiveness of the proposed solution. It is a matter of real concern that government-imposed “solutions” such as corn-based ethanol (a) often exacerbate the problem (e.g. Guardian Reported in 2014, and (b) Murder is politically impossible.

If climate change is indeed an existential threat, then it is essential that we understand science well enough that we “do no harm in the first place.”

Fourth ad, Unstable science (ExonMobil: 2000), discusses the reasons behind the problem of one degree Fahrenheit temperature rise and modeling future trends over the past 150 years, is still debated. As James Hansen put it at the time: “Obligations that drive long-term climate change are not well-defined enough to define future climate change.”

The climatic controversy that erupted nine years later revealed that top IPCC scientists were debating the issues raised by ExxonMobil, including the existence of a medieval warming period.

This ad “encourages the growth of crops and forests” due to natural climate change and an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration during the history of the earth. Finally, the ad acknowledges, “Science has given us enough information that climate change could pose a long-term risk … As a result, people, companies and governments must take responsible action now to address the problem.”

Economic fears?

“Do not jeopardize our economic future,” a 1997 advertisement by the Global Climate Coalition (of which Exxon was a member) warned about energy rationing from the UN climate agreement, which would hurt the United States more than other countries not subject to similar requirements. .

Today, the risks of government-driven replacement of wind and solar for natural gas and coal in power generation are well known. The Great Texas Power Deficit of 2021 and the Winter UK / EU Energy Crisis of 2021/2022 are evidence of the dangers of climate policy.

After all, the “scary” allegations from climate activists need more than just chatter. In 2005, for example, Guardian Published the article, The United Nations has warned of 50 million environmental refugees by the end of the decade.

It’s not our fault, is it yours?

The authors have criticized the advertisement for focusing on the “carbon footprint” separated by BP (formerly British Petroleum) “out of petroleum”, which “mimics big tobacco efforts to counter criticism and protect against litigation and control …”

But oil companies are doing business because people, industry and government need their products and buy them. Millions of their customers, quite literally, cannot live without them. And, unlike tobacco, as James Hansen points out, “fossil fuels have improved the quality of life in most parts of the world.” He further noted that “frequent comparisons between the fossil fuel and tobacco industries are meaningless.”

Speak clearly, do dirty work

Supran and Oreskes have their best cases with these ads; Big Oil is planning to have big oil for the future. Although companies have invested in alternative energy research, their focus is on petroleum and petroleum products.

Eco-lobbyists have forced oil companies to search for renewables, but this raises questions about whether renewables are actually “green.” Great Britain, for example, has invested heavily in biomass power plants; Environmentalists allege that Britain’s organic plants depend on timber from American forests. Industrial wind turbines have negative health effects on residents nearby, and hundreds of wind and solar projects have been shut down or delayed due to environmental concerns.

In addition, the author ignores the very real environment Benefits Fossil fuels. Not only has crude oil protected the forests of Great Britain and kerosene has saved sperm whales from extinction, but petrol has also helped clean up our city streets. Animal power has turned roads into dirty breeding grounds for disease, collecting manure and urine, and swarms of flies.

In addition to the tons of waste that had to be collected and transported in carts every day, thousands of dead horse carcasses had to be removed. Each year, major American cities had to remove 10,000 to 15,000 horse carcasses from their roads.

Fossil fuels have also eliminated the need for clean-cut forests for firewood and for burning wood and dung to keep warm. The health benefits of ending such a practice are considerable.

Rely on natural gas turbines for wind and solar backup. Moreover, the shift from coal to natural gas as the primary fuel for America’s power generation has been a major factor in reducing its CO2 emissions over the past few decades.

The author’s statement that “as opposed to the science of stopping global heating, big oil claims that fossil fuels will be essential for the near future” is demagoguery. The “science of stopping global heating” does not and cannot solve the huge technological, political and economic problems associated with ending global dependence on fossil fuels. The truth is that fossil fuels Willpower It must be essential for human existence and progress in the near future.


Supran and Orescase have condemned the oil company’s advertising on the basis of their man-made climate “crisis”; Their prediction of an evil industrial strategy; Neglect for the environmental, economic, and health benefits of high-energy civilizations; And the liberal use of derogatory words and phrases such as “confusion”, “propaganda”, “climate denial”, “intimidation” and “greenwashing”.

Fortunately for their readers, and unfortunately for their claims, the authors have included ad images that probably represent the worst of the worst. But a neutral reading of them reveals rational commentary on known and unknown things about energy and climate. Ads are rarely controversial.

Reprinted from EconLib

Robert L. Bradley Jr.

Robert L. Bradley

Robert L. Bradley Jr., AIER Senior Fellow, founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research. He is the author of eight books on energy history and blogs on public policy and master resources.

Bradley holds a BA in Economics from Rollins College, an MA in Economics from the University of Houston, and a PhD. From International College to Political Economy.

He was a Schultz Fellow for Economic Research and a Liberty Fund Fellow for Economic Research, and in 2002 he was awarded the Julian L. for his work on energy and sustainable development. Receive the Simon Memorial Award.

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Richard Fulmer

Author of Richard Fulmer Energy: The main resource (Kendall-Hunt: 2004) and numerous articles on free-market economics. He graduated from New Mexico State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1978 and worked as an engineer and a system analyst before retiring to write freelance.

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