Carbon Emissions and Climate Change: Exxon Knew in 1982

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Exxon predicted in 1982 how high global carbon emissions would be today, we have unprecedented carbon levels today

Think Progress - May 2019

The concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere reached an unprecedented level this month. Researchers at the fossil fuel giant Exxon saw it coming decades ago.

Measurements taken on May 3 at the world’s oldest measuring station, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, recorded “humanity’s first day ever with more than 415 parts per million [ppm] CO2 in the air,” according to the United Nation’s climate change Twitter account. As of May 12, levels have remained steady at 415 ppm.

Never before in human history has there been so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The last time scientists believe it may have been this high was 2.5 to 5 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch, when sea levels were 25 meters higher than today and global temperatures were warmer by 2-3 degrees Celsius.

Unlike back then, however, the record carbon dioxide emissions being recorded now are the result of humans burning fossil fuels, which releases harmful heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere. And scientists at Exxon predicted this decades ago.

According to an internal 1982 document from Exxon Research and Engineering Company — obtained by InsideClimate News as part of its 2015 investigation into what Exxon knew about the impact of fossil fuels on climate change — the company was modeling out the concentration of carbon emissions several years into the future.

According to a graph displaying the “growth of atmospheric CO2 and average global temperature increase” over time, the company expected that, by 2020, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reach roughly 400 to 420 ppm. This month’s measurement of 415 ppm is right within the expected curve Exxon projected under its “21st Century Study-High Growth scenario.” ...
Read full report at Think Progress

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