Fossil Fuel Industry Covered Up Its Own Scientific Warnings… Just Like the Asbestos Industry.

Newly found papers show that the fossil fuel industry was heavily into climate science way back in 1954. Big oil and car makers gave money to help research how the earth’s climate was changing. One person who got this money was Charles Keeling.

His work on carbon dioxide levels helped us know more about climate change. Keeling’s “Keeling curve” shows how carbon dioxide levels in the air keep going up, which causes the climate crisis. The connection between this old climate study and the asbestos cover-up is clear.

Both show how big companies can control what we know about science and health. Dr. Gardner’s discovery about asbestos dangers, particularly occupational exposure, got buried by industry pressure. It kept people from knowing how harmful it actually was.

Similarly, the fossil fuel industry hid what they knew about climate change, making it hard to solve the problem. Understanding the role of corporate influence in scientific research is paramount. It highlights the need for transparency, accountability, and independent inquiry to safeguard public well-being and environmental sustainability.

As we look into these findings, we see the tough job of balancing true science with big business interests in shaping our future.

Early Funding of Climate Science

As early as 1954, the fossil fuel industry was quietly funding research into climate science, marking the beginning of a complex relationship between corporate interests and scientific inquiry. Among the beneficiaries of this funding was Charles Keeling, a young researcher whose work would eventually revolutionize our understanding of climate change.

Backed by oil and car manufacturing interests, Keeling began efforts to measure carbon dioxide levels across the western United States. One of Keeling’s most significant contributions was the development of the “Keeling curve,” a graphical representation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations over time.

Source: The Keeling Curve

This curve, derived from continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, revealed a troubling trend of rising carbon dioxide levels, foreshadowing the onset of the climate crisis. The funding provided by the fossil fuel industry bears a striking resemblance to the circumstances surrounding Leroy Gardner’s research on asbestos-related health risks.

Just as Gardner sought to uncover the dangers of asbestos exposure, Keeling’s work aimed to shed light on the potential consequences of carbon emissions. Both researchers faced challenges at the intersection of scientific inquiry and corporate interests. Industry funding often influenced the results of their findings.

Despite the conflicting subject matter, the narratives of Keeling and Gardner showcase the pervasive influence of corporate interests on scientific research.

The early funding of climate science by the fossil fuel industry represents a critical moment in the history of environmental awareness, just like for asbestos exposure. It highlights the complexities inherent in addressing global challenges while caught up in corporate agendas.

Involvement of Fossil Fuel Interests

The funding for Charles Keeling’s research came from a group of companies involved in oil and car manufacturing. These companies joined forces to form a coalition, pooling their resources to support scientific endeavors related to climate research.

Similar to the asbestos industry’s attempts to suppress Dr. Gardner’s findings, these fossil fuel interests had a vested interest in the outcomes of Keeling’s research. They sought to understand the potential impacts of their products on the environment and human health, while also managing public perception and regulatory scrutiny. And just like the Asbestos industry’s attempts to exploit workers, the fossil fuel industry did the same, too.

To facilitate their research efforts, the fossil fuel interests established the Air Pollution Foundation, a group dedicated to funding studies on air quality and related environmental issues. This foundation served as a conduit for industry-backed research initiatives, including Keeling’s work on CO2 levels and atmospheric composition.

The ties between the Air Pollution Foundation and fossil fuel interests were a loose thread for the industry’s approach to shaping the narrative around air pollution and its consequences.

In many ways, the establishment of the Air Pollution Foundation mirrored the asbestos industry’s efforts to control the dissemination of information regarding the health risks associated with asbestos exposure.

Both industries sought to influence scientific research and public discourse to protect their financial interests and minimize regulatory oversight. By funding research initiatives and shaping public perception, fossil fuel interests aimed to mitigate concerns about the environmental and health impacts of their products.

Not only that, just as how the asbestos industry poured funds into scientific research, only to alter the results and hide alarming statistics, the fossil fuel industry was engaged in such patterns as well.

Early Warnings Ignored

The research proposal sent to the funding group in 1954 contained significant warnings about the potential consequences of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Samuel Epstein, Keeling’s research director, focused on the need to understand the impact of CO2 emissions from burning coal and petroleum on several elements. His key focus was the impact on:

·        Climate change,

·        Photosynthesis rates, and

·        Ocean carbonate levels.

Despite these early warnings, fossil fuel interests and the broader scientific community initially downplayed the significance of these findings. The problem would seemingly become a pressing matter at the end of the decade, so the “not my problem” attitude became quite prevalent in the corporate sector.

This pattern of dismissing early warnings mirrors the denial of climate science and the suppression of asbestos health risks. In both cases, industries with financial stakes in the status quo sought to downplay or discredit scientific evidence that challenged their interests.

The alarmingly high number of cancer cases in exposed individuals were ignored, the number of wives, sisters, or mothers being impacted were downplayed, and most importantly, the blame was constantly being shifted to other industries.

During all this, the pattern of ignoring or dismissing early warnings continued. These industries were, therefore, able to maintain their profitability while delaying regulatory action and public awareness of the associated risks.

Experts have reacted strongly to the newly discovered documents, highlighting their implications for understanding the history of climate science and corporate influence on research agendas. Geoffrey Supran, an expert in historic climate disinformation, described the documents as “smoking gun proof” of the fossil fuel industry’s early awareness of the climate crisis.

He further emphasized the industry’s ongoing efforts to undermine scientific consensus and delay meaningful action on climate change.

The reaction from experts and the public itself has brought to light the importance of uncovering and confronting corporate influence on scientific research. By shining a light on the ways in which industries have sought to shape scientific discourse and public perception, we are now better understanding the challenges of addressing complex environmental issues.

Moving forward, it is essential to prioritize transparency, accountability, and independent inquiry to ensure that science serves the public interest rather than corporate agendas.

Industry Knowledge and Denial

Previous investigations have uncovered evidence showing that the fossil fuel industry had early knowledge of the climate impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Scientists working for major oil companies conducted research as far back as the 1950s, which accurately predicted the consequences of burning fossil fuels on global heating.

This suggests that the industry was well aware of the potential climate implications of its products long before these issues gained widespread public attention.

Similar to the deliberate concealment of asbestos-related health risks, the fossil fuel industry actively worked to shape public perception and policy responses to climate change. By downplaying or outright denying the scientific evidence of CO2’s climate impact, the industry sought to protect its financial interests and avoid regulatory scrutiny.

This strategy involved funding research that emphasized uncertainty or downplayed the severity of the climate crisis while simultaneously lobbying against environmental regulations that could threaten profits. In fact, these studies were a prime reason why asbestos was actively mined and used long after its potential for mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and more became evident.

For instance, in the early 1900’s, the link between asbestos and the heightened risk of cancer had started becoming apparent. However, its use continued long afterwards as well, to the point that many buildings today still have asbestos in their insulations, walls, and more. The automotive factory also used talc for a long time for tire manufacturing until the 1980’s. 

The oil industry’s role in shaping public perception and policy responses to climate change highlights the broader issue of corporate influence on scientific research and public discourse. By controlling the flow of information and funding research that aligns with their interests, industries can manipulate public understanding and delay meaningful action on pressing environmental issues.

Legacy of Keeling’s Work

Charles Keeling’s work in measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) levels has had a lasting impact on climate science. His research, which began in the 1950s, laid the foundation for understanding the role of CO2 in climate change.

Similarly to Dr. Gardner’s efforts to raise awareness of asbestos dangers and its properties as a carcinogen, Keeling faced challenges in communicating the significance of his findings. Despite initial skepticism, his research eventually gained widespread recognition and has since become instrumental in shaping our understanding of climate change.

Keeling’s findings have highlighted the urgent need for action to mitigate the effects of climate change. By documenting the rise in CO2 levels, his work has highlighted the role of human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, in driving global warming.

This understanding has informed international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy sources. His model shows that currently, the earth has 422 ppm (parts per million) CO2 particles in the atmosphere – three times higher than in the 1950’s.

Keeling’s death in 2005 left behind a legacy that serves as a reminder of the importance of scientific inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of society. His dedication to understanding the earth’s climate system has paved the way for advancements in climate science and informed policy decisions aimed at addressing the challenges of climate change.

Implications and Accountability

The fossil fuel industry’s early involvement in climate science has significant implications, raising questions about accountability and responsibility. Here’s what we need to consider:

  • Legal and Ethical Implications: The newly unearthed documents, dating back to 1954, suggest that the industry was aware of the potential climate impacts of its products long before acknowledging them publicly. This revelation has led to many lawsuits as well as debates about the industry’s legal and ethical obligations to disclose such information to the public.
  • Similarity to Asbestos Industry: Similar to the asbestos industry’s suppression of health risks associated with asbestos exposure, the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to downplay climate change risks reflect a pattern of corporate misconduct and its legal history. Both industries prioritized profits over public health and environmental concerns, showcase the need for accountability and transparency.
  • Calls for Transparency and Regulation: In response to these revelations, there have been increasing calls for transparency and regulatory measures to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for its actions. This includes demands for the disclosure of internal documents, accountability for misleading the public, and the implementation of stricter regulations to mitigate environmental harm.

Addressing corporate misconduct necessitates a comprehensive approach involving government intervention, public awareness campaigns, and corporate accountability measures. Furthermore, the parallels between the fossil fuel industry’s actions and the asbestos cover-up are striking, highlighting the importance of accountability and transparency in corporate practices.

A Comparison in Summary

The parallels between the fossil fuel industry’s actions and the asbestos cover-up serve as a sobering reminder of the enduring challenges of reconciling corporate interests with scientific integrity and public welfare.

Learning from past mistakes and demanding greater accountability, we can work towards a world where corporate interests align with environmental stewardship and the common good of humanity. It is essential for individuals, communities, and governments to remain vigilant in monitoring corporate behavior and advocating for policies that prioritize environmental protection and public health.

Only through collective action and adherence to scientific and legal truth can we address the urgent challenges posed by climate change and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.