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InsideClimate News @insideclimate
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1/ Why didn't America act on climate change way back when?

You've read the historical reconstruction in the @NYTmag of the 1980s, the decade when the science was becoming clearer and there was some bipartisan political momentum to act.

There's more to this story.
2/ The tale of U.S. climate inaction spans 70 years and it continues to this day.…
3/ Denial of mainstream climate science has developed into a core message of the Republican party, now in control of the White House and Congress. The narrative of how we got here is complicated.
4/ But through our own historical reconstructions, we've been able to draw 2 broad conclusions (as have others):

1) Once the serious threat of political action to control GHG emissions emerged, fossil fuel interests worked hard to undermine the scientific basis for urgent action, using tools like misinformation campaigns and campaign donations.

2) It worked.
6/ Here's an @insideclimate reading list for understanding the last 70 years of (1) the emerging science of climate change and (2) the concerted actions to stave off action.

We hope this is helpful.
7/ As early as the 1950s oil companies worked on strategies to sow doubt about science that could lead to regulation of their own air emissions.
8/ The Smoke and Fumes committee at the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry's main lobbyist, worked to discredit the science surrounding smog that its own researchers ultimately confirmed.
9/ How the oil industry handled smog science would become a template for how it handled climate change science.

Read about it here:…
10/ The 1950s are also when scientists at oil companies began conducting basic research into CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, trying to better understand the carbon cycle, following work published by leading academics.
11/ The CO2 problem was gaining wider scientific recognition during the 1960s, especially as President Lyndon B. Johnson's science advisers and leading experts brought it to the attention of the White House in 1965.
12/ "Changes in temperature on the world-wide scale could cause major changes in the earth's atmosphere over the next several hundred years including change in the polar ice caps," API's consultant scientists wrote to the group in a 1968 paper.
13/ These records were unearthed from archives by a Washington D.C. environmental law organization, the Center for International Environmental Law.

Read them and our take here:…
14/ By 1977, the National Academies of Science issued a report warning that the eventual limit on the use of fossil fuels would not be scarcity of supply, but the greenhouse effect and the risks it posed.…
15/ That year, Exxon's top executives received the same message from Exxon scientist, James Black, who told them, "man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical."
16/ An Exxon researcher named also Henry Shaw took note, and before long the world's leading oil company, Exxon, launched a leading-edge in-house research program into the emerging science of climate change.
17/ The program was detailed by us in an award-winning 2015 investigative series. The multi-part history spans four decades and was based on primary sources, including internal company files and interviews with former company employees.…
18/ Exxon researchers hoped their work would identify the risks climate change posed to the company's business and earn it a seat at the table when policymakers moved to limit CO2 emissions.
19/ Around this time, Rafe Pomerance, then president of Friends of the Earth, raised the concern of global warming with Gus Speth, then a White House environmental adviser. They arranged a seminal report by a team of 4 scientists to Jimmy Carter's administration.
20/ It was called "The Carbon Dioxide Problem." And it predicted "a warming that will probably be conspicuous within the next twenty years."
21/ Here's a link to that report, with an interesting prologue by Speth written several years ago, suggesting some reasons that the nation didn't pay much heed:…
22/ In 1982, Roger Cohen told an Exxon company executive: "There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth's climate."

Read the full document here:…
23/ We called our series Exxon: The Road Not Taken because by the late 1980s, Exxon and its allies chose to pivot to using scientific uncertainty as a shield against forceful action on global warming.

Read it here:…
24/ Soon after we published, the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism School and the LA Times independently reached the same conclusion about the 1980s, based on a different set of documents and written by their own team of reporters.
25/ As the international community moved in 1997 to curb emissions with the Kyoto Protocol, Exxon's Chairman and CEO Lee Raymond focused on amplifying scientific doubt.

26/ API's work to spread climate misinformation was noted at the time, but it took decades for its full extent to be unraveled.…
27/ Exxon's undermining of mainstream science and embrace of denial and misinformation would become most pronounced in the 2000s, after President George W. Bush took office.
28/ Industry lobbyists and interest groups embedded themselves into the White House and set about revising science documents and undermining the IPCC, the USGCRP, and other institutions urging action.

Read about it here:…
29/ Doubts about climate change were echoed by think tanks and advocacy groups that Exxon and other corporations nurtured with donations starting in the 1990s.

You can explore the document and money trail here: and here:
30/ By the 2000s, the growing network created an echo chamber loud enough to command equal time in the media.
31/ Still, under pressure from shareholders, ExxonMobil announced in 2007 it would stop funding a number of climate denial groups.

The following year, the presidential nominees of both political parties felt safe pledging to address the threat of climate change if elected.
32/ In 2010 the equilibrium changed. The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United opened the door to unlimited political spending.
33/ Billionaires such as the Koch brothers moved millions to support the rise of ultra-conservative candidates who saw climate denial as the bedrock of party orthodoxy.
34/ Already, few Republicans running for federal office would admit to accepting the reality of climate change.

Republican moderates in Congress who accepted climate science were eliminated.
35/ The once well-balanced House Science Committee became an instrument of attack against mainstream climate science.

This shift is a case study of the power of fossil fuel interests to shape government policy.

Read about it here:…
36/ That brings us to today.

Just like the Republican upstarts that threaten the party establishment, conservative think tanks are taking climate denial farther than many fossil fuel companies can support.
37/ The misinformation apparatus Exxon and corporations helped create is now so independent and robust, it no longer needs—or trusts—them.

Read about it here:…
38/ InsideClimate News connects the dots between climate change, energy, money and politics.

Don’t miss our next big story. Sign up for our weekly newsletter:…
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