Oil Industry’s Public Climate Denial Campaign Dates Back to at Least 1980, Nearly a Decade Earlier Than Previously Thought

The American Petroleum Institute (API), the leading oil and gas industry trade group, publicly pushed misleading information on climate change as early as 1980 – much earlier than previously thought – according to newly discovered archival documents.

API “was promulgating false and misleading information about climate change in 1980, nearly a decade earlier than previously known,” wrote Benjamin Franta, a JD/PhD candidate at Stanford University’s Law School and Department of History, in a new peer-reviewed paper published this month in Environmental Politics.

An organized campaign of climate disinformation is generally thought to have begun around 1989 with the formation of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry front group aimed at protecting fossil fuel interests, before it coalesced into a more active campaign of climate denial in the 1990s, which included attacking climate scientists, muddying the waters on climate science, and promoting climate deniers. API was one of the coalition’s leading members, along with Exxon (later ExxonMobil).

But Franta points to a policy booklet published by API in 1980 as evidence that the lobby group not only knew then about the negative impact fossil fuel combustion had on the climate, but actively sought to obscure that fact to the public.

“This contradicts the idea that the industry was a good-faith player at that time, and only later turned to disinformation efforts,” Franta told DeSmog of his findings, which he stumbled across when doing archival research.

In API’s booklet, “Two Energy Futures: A National Choice for the 80s,” the industry acknowledged that carbon dioxide was a “pollutant,” but cast doubt on the role of CO2 in global warming by misrepresenting what prominent scientists said at the time.

For instance, API pointed to popular astronomer Carl Sagan who wrote about global warming in science journals and in his 1980 book “Cosmos.” “Other scientists are more sanguine about the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some scientists, including Dr. Carl Sagan, Cornell University astronomer, see a cooling phenomenon as counteracting the greenhouse effect,” API wrote.

But suggesting that Sagan was “sanguine” about CO2 is false. Sagan explored the albedo effect from land use change – he proposed that deforested areas increase the planet’s albedo, which meant that disturbed land would reflect more sunlight because of its lighter color, thus potentially causing a cooling effect. Ultimately, though, Sagan warned that the dangers of warming from fossil fuels was much more significant than any cooling effect from an increased albedo. Misrepresenting some of Sagan’s work on albedo, API jumped to the conclusion that warming from fossil fuels was nothing to worry about.

Continued at source…