Currently, the major oil companies appear to have settled on an awkward compromise with the reality of climate change: They generally acknowledge that their product is helping drive it but plan to continue to produce as much of that product as they can. But that reflects a major change for these companies, which up until recently were funding think tanks that minimized the risks of climate change and, in many cases, directly denying the validity of the science.
In the case of ExxonMobil, that includes denying its own science. Thanks to documents obtained by the press, we now know that Exxon sponsored its own climate researchers who did internal research, collaborated with academic scientists, and came to roughly the same conclusions about carbon dioxide that the rest of the scientific community had—and executives were made aware of it.
But how rough were the conclusions that Exxon’s scientists gave its executives? It’s a question that goes to the heart of how misleading the executives were being when they downplayed the risks. A new study answers that question pretty definitively: Exxon’s scientists were as good (and sometimes better) than the scientific community as a whole at projecting the climate changes created by fossil fuel use.