Thongchai Thailand

THE EXXON KNEW MOVEMENT

Posted on: March 6, 2021

Exxon Knew. Did They, Though?

THIS POST IS A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE EXXON KNEW NARRATIVE IN CLIMATE SCIENCE AND THE MANY CLAIMS ABOUT A SECRETIVE EVIL OF EXXON’S CLIMATE SCIENCE.

THE FULL TEXT OF THE EXXON KNEW AFFAIR IS PROVIDED IN TWO RELATED POSTS. LINKS BELOW.

CLAIM#1: Marty Hoffert leaned closer to his computer screen. He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. It was 1981, and he was working in an area of science considered niche. “We were just a group of geeks with some great computers,” he says now, recalling that moment. But his findings were alarming. “I created a model that showed the Earth would be warming very significantly. And the warming would introduce climatic changes that would be unprecedented in human history. That blew my mind.” Marty Hoffert was one of the first scientists to create a model which predicted the effects of man-made climate change. And he did so while working for Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil companies.  

RESPONSE#1: The novelty of this 1981 climate science Eureka moment is undone by the history of climate science. The world’s first research paper on anthropogenic global warming by fossil fuel emissions was published in 1938 by Guy Callendar LINK: https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/06/29/peer-review-comments-on-callendar-1938/ } where he noted the co-occurrence of fossil fuel emissions of the industrial economy, rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, and rising temperatures in the period 1900-1938 and proposed the corresponding causation relationships – fossil fuel emissions caused atmospheric CO2 to rise and that rising atmospheric CO2 caused warming. Other papers followed in the 1950s and 1960s by Revelle and Keeling and a very significant paper in 1971 by the Late Great Stephen Schneider in which he explained both the warming prior to the 1940s and the cooling that followed thereafter in terms of fossil fuel emissions that contain not only CO2 but also aerosols. { LINK TO SCHNEIDER 1971: https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/10/23/the-1970s-cooling-anomaly-of-agw/ } There were also several significant climate change papers in 1981 including the now famous paper by James Hansen, the precursor to his 1988 paper and Congressional Testimony. { LINK TO HANSEN 1988 TESTIMONY: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/09/11/a-climate-industrial-complex/ } All of these significant events pre-date the work of Marty Hoffert presented in the {EXXON KNEW} arguments as the original breakthrough Eureka moment of science of climate change. As for the claim of a climate model as a novelty in 1981 written by computer geek Marty Hoffert, we note that the world’s first climate model was written by Syukuro Manabe in 1965 {LINK TO MANABE: https://tambonthongchai.com/2019/09/14/manabe-and-other-early-estimates-of-ecs/ }. Manabe has since fallen out of grace from the climate science consensus for mysterious reasons that may have to do with his insistent and consistent estimate of a low climate sensitivity as ECS=2. Manabe was undone when the IPCC adopted the Jule Charney estimate. In 1979, Jule Charney used the Manabe climate model to predict a symmetrical Gaussian distribution of ECS defined by a mean of ECS=3 and a 90% confidence interval of 1.5<ECS<4.5. This range was adopted by the IPCC and has since become gospel in both the literature and in textbooks. Charney died shortly after his landmark climate sensitivity presentation of 1979 but his estimate of ECS=[1.5,4.5] survives to this day as the climate science standard against which all estimates must be compared and evaluated.

Syukuro Manabe On the Scientific History of Climate Change | Princeton  Alumni Weekly
SYUKURO MANABE
Stephen Schneider, a leading climate expert, dead at 65
THE LATE GREAT STEPHEN SCHNEIDER

CLAIM#2: At the time Exxon was spending millions of dollars on ground-breaking research. It wanted to lead the charge as scientists grappled with the emerging understanding that the warming planet could cause the climate to change in ways that could make life pretty difficult for humans. Hoffert shared his predictions with his managers, showing them what might happen if we continued burning fossil fuels in our cars, trucks and planes. But he noticed a clash between Exxon’s own findings, and public statements made by company bosses, such as the then chief executive Lee Raymond, who said that “currently, the scientific evidence is inconclusive as to whether human activities are having a significant effect on the global climate”. “They were saying things that were contradicting their own world-class research groups,” said Hoffert. Angry, he left Exxon, and went on to become a leading academic in the field. What they did was immoral. They spread doubt about the dangers of climate change when their own researchers were confirming how serious a threat it was. 

RESPONSE#2: The unbiased information here is that Exxon hired climate scientists and carried out climate research so managers could have the information they needed to make the relevant decisions. Hoffert did not “share” his research with Exxon managers, he was hired and paid to produce that research for the managers. All of Exxon’s research in climate science was in the public domain and published in peer reviewed journals. The implied veil of secrecy is not there. Therefore, that Exxon had come upon secret information about a coming AGW catastrophe and then kept it a secret for profit’s sake, is not credible. Everything that Exxon knew was in the public domain and nothing that Exxon knew was a secret. That Exxon had indeed looked into that matter in depth and spent significant resources investigating the fossil fueled global warming issue before they made their decision means that their decision was an informed decision made in the open with all research findings made public. These details of Exxon’s research into AGW do not cast them as evil and secretive but as rational business managers.

CLAIM#3Chief executive Lee Raymond said that “currently, the scientific evidence is inconclusive as to whether human activities are having a significant effect on the global climate”. They were saying things that were contradicting their own world-class research groups,” said Hoffert. Angry, he left Exxon, and went on to become a leading academic in the field. What they did was immoral. They spread doubt about the dangers of climate change when their own researchers were confirming how serious a threat it was. 

RESPONSE#3: What we see here is that Exxon managers hired climate experts to do the research and advise managers but the managers did not heed the advice of these experts. Yet, this is exactly how business works. The managers are the decision makers accountable to shareholders. They hire experts to provide them with information they need to make their decision but in the end the managers make the decision. Technical experts are not hired to make decisions but to provide managers with information they need to make decisions. The important information here is that the managers DID hire experts to investigate this matter and then only after receiving their reports and findings did the managers do their job and make a decision on the basis of those findings. There is nothing odd or suspicious or evil in this matter particularly so considering that the renewable energy alternative was still in development and without a practical solution to intermittency and unreliability. The irony here is that renewable technology is still in development and not a reliable technology ready for implementation. Details in related posts on this site LINK #1: https://tambonthongchai.com/2021/02/17/the-market-for-energy/ , LINK#2: https://tambonthongchai.com/2021/02/28/intermittency-of-renewable-energy/

CLAIM#4: Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes began digging into the background of leading climate sceptics, including Fred Seitz, a nuclear physicist and former president of the US National Academy of Sciences. She found he was deeply anti-communist, believing any government intervention in the marketplace “would put us on the slippery slope to socialism”. She also discovered that he had been active in the debates around smoking in the 1980s. “That was a Eureka moment. We realised this was not a scientific debate. A person with expertise about climate change would in no way be an expert about oncology or public health or cardiovascular disease, or any of the key issues associated with tobacco. “The fact that the same people were arguing on behalf of fossil fuels and tobacco was a clue that something fishy was going on. That’s what led us to discover this pattern of disinformation that gets systemically used again and again.” Naomi Oreskes spent years going through the tobacco archive at the University of California at San Francisco. It contains more than 14 million documents that were made available thanks to litigation against US tobacco firms. A strikingly familiar story emerged. Decades before the energy industry tried to undermine the case for climate change, tobacco companies had used the same techniques to challenge the emerging links between smoking and lung cancer in the 1950s. The story began at Christmas 1953. In New York’s luxurious Plaza Hotel, the heads of the tobacco companies met to discuss a new threat to their business model. Details of the night’s anxious conversations were recorded in a document written by public relations guru John Hill from Hill and Knowlton. Widely read magazines like Readers Digest and Time Life had begun publishing articles about the association between smoking and lung cancer. And researchers like those who had found that lab mice painted with cigarette tar got cancer were attracting increasing attention. 

RESPONSE#4: It is now standard practice for climate activists, particularly Naomi Oreskes, to insert the tobacco story into the Exxon knew allegations to insert a greater insinuation of evil but the relevance of this insertion is obscure with no rational argument from the accusers of its relevance to AGW climate change. The two possible arguments here are that (1) there exists a man named Fred Seitz who has defended both fossil fuels and tobacco in terms of government interference in free markets and so therefore the climate change and tobacco issues are the same underlying reality that big business is evil and will destroy our health and the climate for profit’s sake. Yet, if Oreskes had been on the other side of the climate debate she would have been written off as someone with insufficient climate science credentials to comment. Climate science is first and foremost an activism movement with claims to science where it serves the activism.

YET ANOTHER ISSUE IN THE TOBACCO ANGLE IS THAT THE ISSUE IN CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT THAT THE USER OF FOSSIL FUEL IS HURTING HIMSELF BUT RATHER THAT THE USER OF FOSSIL FUEL IS BENEFITTING FROM THE COMBUSTION BY HURTING OTHERS.

THE TOBACCO ISSUE IS THE DIAMETRIC OPPOSITE OF THIS ARGUMENT. FOR THERE THE USER OF TOBACCO IS HURTING HIMSELF AND ONLY HIMSELF. THE WORLD AT LARGE AND THE PLANET ARE NOT AT RISK BECAUSE HE IS SMOKING.

Naomi Oreskes: fierce defender of climate change science – and scientists -  CSMonitor.com

FOOTNOTE: That there are significant uncertainties in climate science is acknowledged by climate scientists in their published papers and yet a reference to these uncertainties by Exxon managers is deemed evil and unacceptable. The difference is not in the extent of the uncertainty but how uncertainty is understood. In science as in rational decision making by managers, uncertainty is interpreted as dearth of information such that the less we know the more uncertainty there is in our estimate. But n climate science, the variance statistic is first converted into a confidence interval and the extreme end of that interval that creates the greatest fear is then interpreted as the information provided by that estimate. This is a gross statistical error and a failure to understand the concept of uncertainty. Details in a related post: LINK https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/04/22/climate-science-uncertainty/ .

BRIEFLY, UNCERTAINTY DOES NOT MEAN OH! LOOK HOW HIGH IT COULD BE. IT MEANS WE DON’T REALLY KNOW. THE LESS WE KNOW THE HIGHER IT COULD BE AND IN PERFECT IGNORANCE IT COULD BE AS HIGH AS INFINITY BECAUSE THE ANSWER IS NOT CONSTRAINED BY INFORMATION.

Measurement of Uncertainty

As an example, consider the climate science study of the Greenland Ice sheet melt rate to come to the alarming conclusion that its sea level rise contribution by the year 2100 could be as high as 90mm. A large uncertainty is reported in the data but not interpreted. When that uncertainty is included in the interpretation of the finding, no alarm remains. For critics to point out these uncertainties cannot be described as a misuse of uncertainty to cast doubt because the doubt is in the data. Rather the misuse of uncertainty if any is in the biased interpretation of uncertainty in climate activism  LINK TO GREENLAND MELT STUDY https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/09/19/greenlands-future-sea-level-rise/

IF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE POINTING OUT THESE UNCERTAINTIES AND STATISTICAL ERRORS IN CLIMATE SCIENCE ARE MERCHANTS OF DOUBT THEN WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS RIGHT NOW ARE MORE MERCHANTS OF DOUBT. MERCHANTS OF DOUBT ARE CRITICAL CONSUMERS OF INFORMATION. UNCRITICAL CONSUMPTION OF INFORMATION BASED ON THE POWER OF WORDS SUCH AS SCIENCE AND CONSENSUS DOES NOT PROVIDE A USEFUL SERVICE TO SOCIETY . RATHER THESE ARE WAYS FOR THE ELITE TO SUBVERT DEMOCRACY JUST AS FRED SEITZ HAD FOREWARNED.

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on  Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (Audible Audio Edition): Erik  M. Conway, Naomi Oreskes, Peter Johnson, Audible Studios: Amazon.ca:

LINK TO ORIGINAL POST ON THE COMPUTER GEEK WHO INVENTED CLIMATE SCIENCE: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/09/21/computer-geek-invents-climate-model-in-1981-and-exposes-evil-exxon/

How the oil industry made us doubt climate change - BBC News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: