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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2004 / 0129

0129

friends of the earth international
press release
29 january 2004

EXXONMOBIL'S HISTORIC CONTRIBUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE ASSESSED FOR THE FIRST TIME

read the report

London (UK) / Washington DC (USA) January 29, 2004 (EMBARGO)-- A landmark report released today reveals that, over the past 120 years, the operations and burning of products of oil giant Exxon Mobil [1] and its predecessors (since the foundation of the Standard Oil Trust in 1882), have caused between 4.7 and 5.3% of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions across the globe.

The figures were unveiled as Exxon [NYSE:XOM] releases its annual results today and show that the company's total carbon dioxide emissions in the past 120 years, at 20.3 billion tonnes, have been about three times the current annual global emissions from fossil fuels (and about 13 times the annual US emissions).

The new report "Exxon's Climate Footprint" is based on two groundbreaking studies carried out by independent experts and commissioned by Friends of the Earth. [2]

This is the first time a company's historic contribution to global climate change has ever been calculated and could prove vital in paving the way for compensation claims against companies by victims of global warming caused by man-made pollution.

Carbon dioxide emissions are the principal cause of global warming and the report shows that most of the years when ExxonMobil's emissions have been highest were after 1996, the year when United Nations scientists concluded that man-made pollution had a discernible effect on the global climate [3].

Around 70% of the company's emissions have been since 1967, when scientists produced "the first reasonably solid evidence" that global warming could really happen. [4].

Climate change has started and its predicted impacts are huge. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people could lose their lives or livelihoods because of changing rainfall patterns and more severe storms. Impacts of climate change in Exxon's home state of Texas could include lower agricultural yields, loss of land, and more frequent flooding along the US Gulf coast.

The research was carried out by independent experts in the US and New Zealand and involved adding up data on fuel used and sold, calculating the emissions generated and feeding the results into an internationally-recognised computer model. The research, based on data Exxon published in its annual reports, and on other sources, also shows the impact Exxon-related emissions have had on global temperatures and the rise in sea level.

ExxonMobil was chosen as the first company for such an assessment because it has repeatedly attempted to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change and actively resisted attempts to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

Tony Juniper, Vice-chair of Friends of the Earth International said:

"This report should send shivers through the boardrooms of oil companies all over the world. For the first time, the historic effect of one company, ExxonMobil, on climate change has been identified and its products' impacts assessed. We hope this assessment will bring forward the day when the victims of climate change can take legal action against ExxonMobil for the damage its activities have caused and will cause in the future. Exxon shareholders should warn the company that the stance it is taking on global warming is leaving it vulnerable to legal action and require an assessment of their exposure. Other companies that have contributed to climate change would also be well-advised to consider whether they face similar risks."

Jon Sohn, Senior Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth US said: "ExxonMobil is sticking its head in the sand just like tobacco companies that knew the harmful impacts of their product and ultimately paid the price. ExxonMobil's greenhouse gas contribution is staggering and shareholders can vote for resolutions that force the corporation to take action now."

For more information, contact Friends of the Earth climate change experts:

In the USA:

Jon Sohn, Sr. Policy Analyst at +1-202-222-0717 (office) or +1-202-412-2467 (mobile)

In the UK:

Tony Juniper, Vice-President of Friends of the Earth International, at + 44 207 566 1649 (office) or: +44 (0)7712 843207 (mobile)

OR

Lawyer Peter Roderick at +44 207-388 3141 (office) from the Climate Justice Programme [5] who can discuss the legal implications of the studies.

Notes for Editors

[1] ExxonMobil trades as Esso, Mobil, Imperial Oil, Tonen General and Exxon in different countries.

[2] The report is based on two groundbreaking studies carried out by independent experts and commissioned by Friends of the Earth:

a) Heede R. "ExxonMobil Corporation emissions inventory 1882-2002: Methods and Results, plus associated spreadsheets", Climate Mitigation Services, Snowmass, Colorado. Dec 2003. This study estimated the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from ExxonMobil's operations and the burning of its products.

b) Salinger J. and Bodeker G. "Assessing the effects of CO2, CH4 and N2O emissions on atmospheric concentrations, changes in radiative forcing, changes in global mean surface temperature, and changes in sea level: a case study", National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd. Dec 2003. This study uses the results of the previous study to run a well-known climate model to calculate the contribution these emissions have made, and will make, to atmospheric concentrations of these gases, to increases in global average surface temperature and to sea-level rise.

These studies and associated documents are available on request and will be available at www.exxonclimatefootprint.com from 02:00 GMT on 29 January 2004 (21:00 ET 28 Jan 2004 for the USA)

[3] In 1996, the IPCC reviewed the scientific evidence on the impact of man-made pollution on the world's climate and concluded that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate" [IPCC (1996) "Climate Change1995: the Science of Climate Change" p. 4]

[4] In 1967, Manabe & Wetherald made a convincing calculation that doubling CO2 would raise world temperatures a couple of degrees. See the American Institute of Physics' The Discovery of Global Warming: Timeline of Milestones, available at http://www.aip.org/history/climate/Radmath.htm#L_M035. The Institute states that "In the view of many experts, this widely noted calculation (to be precise: the Manabe-Wetherald one-dimensional radiative-convective model) gave the first reasonably solid evidence that greenhouse warming really could happen."

[5] The international and collaborative Climate Justice Programme supports and encourages the enforcement of the law to combat climate change and associated human rights violations. See http://www.climatelaw.org. The Climate Justice Programme was a partner in managing the two studies.

Background note on Climate change:

Climate change is caused by a build-up of man-made pollution that traps some of the light reflecting off the Earth's surface - heating up the atmosphere and changing weather patterns. The main gases involved include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Burning fossil fuels is by far the biggest contributor to this problem.

The United Nations has set up an independent, international committee of experts called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC says global average surface temperatures rose by about 0.6°C during the last century [IPCC (2001) "Climate change: the scientific basis" p2].
In 2001, it said that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years was due to human activities [p10]. The IPCC also says the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world are likely to suffer most from climate change [IPCC (2001) "Climate change: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability" p.8].

 

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