Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Exxon accurately predicted 2019's climate change and CO2 emission in 1982 (twitter.com)
328 points by eric_khun 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



Exxon is currently pushing misleading ads embeded in @nytimes articles about #ExxonKnew:

https://twitter.com/JoanieLemercier/status/11877355477600419...

From above thread.


They're all over Twitter as well, the first thing that came up on opening Twitter on the morning their trial started.

I'm slightly surprised it is legal, aren't there restrictions on prejudicing the trial?


In 1982 we had just emerged from the decade where the 1973 Yom Kippur War oil crisis and the 1979 Iranian Revolution oil shock has us waiting in line for gasoline and filling only on odd/even days depending on whether we had odd or even license plates.

People were interested in producing more oil, not less. Even the Club of Rome could not get much traction with its "Limits to Growth" reports. It was also the middle of the Cold War and oil is a vital military supply - the Department of Defense is a huge consumer of refined oil products.


They didn’t just withhold, they actively sowed disinformation

https://climateinvestigations.org/drilled-climate-change-den...

Are they doing it this very morning on popular forums?


Motorists rush to fill their gas tanks in Martinez, Calif., on Sept. 21, 1973.

During two separate oil crises in the 1970s, Americans from coast to coast faced persistent gas shortages as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, flexed its muscles and disrupted oil supplies.

In 1973 and again in 1979, drivers frequently faced around-the-block lines when they tried to fill up.

Drivers would go to stations before dawn or late at night, hoping to avoid the lines.

Odd-even rationing was introduced — meaning that if the last digit on your license plate was odd, you could get gas only on odd-numbered days. New Jersey and New York have just reintroduced the system.

Back in the '70s, some gas stations took to posting flags — green if they had gas, yellow if rationing was in effect and red if they were out of gas.

-NPR https://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2012/11/10/16479229...


> People were interested in producing more oil, not less.

That's not really a correct categorization. In fact the oil shock also drove serious interest (i.e. among "serious thinkers") in efficiency of consumption and distribution. The CAFE standards et. al. date from this period too.

It wasn't until the mid 90's, long after climate change became a public meme, that most of our government turned away from the idea.


The Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965 was the first real vehicle pollution control act and it limited certain tailpipe emissions. However, it was one of the stupidist regulations ever, since it limited the proportion of unburned hydrocarbons, etc., in exhaust gas. The auto manufacturers did the rational thing and met the requirements by increasing the displacement of engines and pumping more air in a leaner mixture. The result was poor performing gas guzzlers and fleet mileage dropped from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. Thus, a decade of misguided federal clean air regulations made the oil crises much worse than they would have been.

The regulations should have limited grams of pollutant per ton-kilometer in order to require both less pollutants and better efficiency.


Efficiency improvements don't seem to be what the recent push against Exxon is about. In fact, according to Massachusett's lawsuit against them, claiming that efficiency improvements in hydrocarbon-powered vehicles reduce CO2 emissions is an illegal attempt to deceive the public because the vehicles still emit CO2.


Even in the mid-90's we were being taught that the coming global catastrophe related to oil was that we wouldn't be able to produce <<enough>>. Peak Oil theory that was accepted at the time said that the world would have already hit peak oil production by now.


Hope it was worth it.


For a few glorious moments we created a lot of value for the shareholders.


We industrialized the world, lifted billions out of poverty, and increased living standards. Why do people ignore the human progress's we've made. Folks really need to have some perspective.


I recently read almost exactly this talking point earlier today, about Exxon’s lies.

Almost word for word.

1) that’s weird. 2) we make trade off choices all of the time, it’s what society does. However, when one side argues that the trade offs don’t exist, or lie about them, that’s deeply immoral, especially when it is such a pervasive, existential threat.

“If you work this job I have for you in my mine, I know for a fact you’ll get mesothelioma, I won’t tell you, and in fact fight tooth and nail to convince you and everyone else that it’s perfectly safe. But now that you have mesothelioma, why don’t you think about the salary we paid you? How it supported your whole life? Maybe have a bit of perspective, huh?”


Had we acted on climate change in the 1980s, I doubt that would have made much difference on living standards in the end. And insofar as it would, it would have been worth it. Maybe we could have avoided the worst externalities of petrochem and consumerism-centered lifestyle.


What’s progress if then m/billions will die with climate change?


Right. Oil is energy. A very energy dense, low volume, light weight, easily transportable form of energy.

It’s truly a liquid with magical properties that doesn’t have a green equivalent.

Now the ask is to make people’s lives uncomfortable? I doubt that’s going to fly.

My bet is whoever figures out a carbon capture -> green oil solution is in for big wins.

Energy makes our lives great.


People have figured out carbon capture; people haven't figured out economical carbon capture at scale yet (except for reforestation, which only partially helps), and it feels like we're a long way off. If you want to incentivize the creation of CCS while still penalizing the externality (cost to society of a carbon intensive economy), you'd probably want to ratchet up something like a carbon tax, and then give a rebate for performing something like carbon capture. That might create the economies of scale needed.


Petroleum and Sea Power -- https://aoghs.org/petroleum-in-war/petroleum-and-sea-power/

Before airplanes, before tanks, the oil-fired battleship was a vast improvement over coal-fired battleships.

Also "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power" by Daniel Yergin is essential for understanding the history of oil.


While it is energy, it is basically bottled sunshine.


> My bet is whoever figures out a carbon capture -> green oil solution is in for big wins.

Otherwise known as a tree


Trees are great. What I mean is engineering Trees that convert sunlight in a super efficient way and bear electroil fruits.

Electroil is an imaginary liquid that is as energy dense as oil but can be converted to electricity at almost a 100% efficiency

We know most of the oil is used to power engines. It’s not a very efficient chemical to kinetic energy conversion.


While taking action and changing our ways and the use of some products to prevent further damage to the ozone layer, and even reverse damages.

It doesn't have to be one or the other.


And all it cost was the inevitable total destruction of our climate and ecology! Yay!


Would that not have happened had we been more responsible with our greenhouse gas emissions?


Did you take an airplane anywhere in the meantime? Hope it was worth it, cause you knew about climate change when you got on it so many times you can't count them all.


People who advocate change should refuse to participate in any aspect of society. Otherwise their arguments are invalid because of hypocricy!


I don't know about any aspect but maybe the one by far most contributing to the problem they claim to care about would be a decent start. Flying on a private jet to a climate conference really does look bad.


a large section of the society lives on a tiny tiny portion of the world's wealth, and for them abandoning mass options to find alternatives would be really difficult in terms of cash and time.


> People who advocate change should refuse to participate in any aspect of society.

There's a big difference between refusing to burn massive amounts of oil and refusing to participate in any aspect of society. If burning oil like this is immoral for everyone, it is immoral for you; if it is not immoral for you, it is not immoral for anyone with your resources.

> Otherwise their arguments are invalid because of hypocrisy!

Yes, their arguments are silly because of hypocrisy; pricing the poor out of energy is a hypocritical way for the world's rich to purport to make change.


You burn massive amounts of oil by being alive. Here you are, using a computer, using electricity, inside of a structure, eating food grown with artificial fertilisers and machinery, wearing clothes that were manufactured out of oil and then transported with oil.

Unless you are living naked in a forest, foraging for food, and shivering for warmth, and have done so since birth, you’re as hypocritical as those you would accuse.


> you’re as hypocritical as those you would accuse

I'm not going around judging people for ordinary oil use, I fully accept the costs of my actions, and I know that convenience is more important to me than reducing my carbon footprint, at some threshold. The hypocrisy comes from putting on an air of caring without putting in the work, as though it is somehow a moral accomplishment to impose the costs of your own lifestyle on others.

I also think it's pretty rich that this thread is nothing but name-calling, antagonism, and flamebait, and dang is nowhere to be seen; but I avoid all of this behaviour and somehow still get reprimanded because HNers can't help but be nasty to eachother in my threads.


What do you consider "putting in the work"?

What could an activist possibly do to convince you?

Plenty of climate activists have obstructed pipelines with direct action, have blockaded roads and blocked oil derricks; they have sacrificed time, money and in some cases their freedom when arrested. Meanwhile, you and others of your ilk sniff about "antagonism" and go about your day feeling smug that you're not a hypocrite because you "fully accept the costs of [your] actions" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

You say you "accept" the cost of your actions, but you leave it up to the rest of us to make sure you pay those costs.


How to convince me there is an existential threat requiring huge changes? Stop flying. Period. Stop eating meat. Period. Move into high density housing, and forego cars and just take public transportation or bike. That'll work for table stakes if you want to lecture me about the sacrifices I need to make. Put up or shut up.


No, you're going to ignore them anyway, since you're clearly not interested in the science. So why do it? They are better off using tools and resources in the short term to amplify their position and try and effect change.


Your crystal ball is cloudy. I am interested in the Science. I'm not interested in being hectored by some busybody who knows less about the Science than I do, espcially when their behavior is hypocritical.

Are you interested in the Science? Here's some test questions: how do you explain the lack of warming signal for the past 15 years in the gold standard temperature dataset from the USCRN? What percentage of change in global cloud cover would account for 2C of warming and how does it compare to the accuracy of the IPCC model ensemble in predicting changes in global cloud cover?

I'm not denying a warming climate, but I do think there are significant error bars surrounding calculations of Climate Sensitivity. Until someone can provide me with better answers than "what does it hurt to err on the side of caution" I'm going to be a skeptic of predictions of catastrophic warming.

Now are you going to ignore Science, or are you going to ask for hard evidence of extraordinary claims?


Cool. Be sure to ask the next person who claims to be concerned about the national debt why they aren't paying 95% of their income to the government and living in a shoebox. I'd also suggest reading up on collective action problems.


Let me see if I have your argument down... one can ignore hypocrisy in personal behavior because collective actions are hard to do? Is that it? If so, it isn't a very strong argument. If not, what is your claim about personal hypocrisy?


My claim is that one shouldn't have to personally be a saint to be taken seriously when advocating for a policy position.


The original question was how climate activists could convince people, not lobby for policy. Of course non-saints can advocate policy, but animal rights activists who wear furs and leather should not expect to be taken all that seriously. Same for jet-setting climate activists.


Good news for you! Nobody with any power is taking them seriously! The activists have been ignored and derided for going on 25 years now, just like you hoped.

I'm sure that future generations (well, the fraction that don't die from climate-aggrivated famines, wars or diseases) will be pleased to know that wealthy software devs from the Era of 24/7 Electricity didn't ever have to feel uncomfortable about their choices.


No nastiness intended - I’m just underscoring they point that individual actions are at best well intentioned, at worst illusory, false hopes.

We need structural change mandating a low carbon economy, regulatory enforcement, and energy sources factored in throughout the supply chain to achieve this. This kind of effort is already working with RoHS and REACH - the technical infrastructure exists - but the political will isn’t quite there yet.

I fly, but I am working with the European Commission to make this kind of regulatory accountability a reality - similar to substance restrictions, it’ll start as an audibility measure, and will then grow to encompass enforcement and public transparency. Several of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers are on board. The automotive and aerospace sectors are trying to do their own things, as ever, but are making noises towards harmonisation.

So. Living in the forest isn’t the solution (although I do, and produce 100% of our energy and water, and 90% of our food, here), rather pushing for structural change through whatever means are available for you. I’m a techie. I’m helping define XML standards that might just save the world.

But I do fly.


Well, you should be ashamed of yourself. At the very least stop talking about climate change. Everyone's awareness is already raised.


Buy airplane carbon offsets: https://www.atmosfair.de/en/


Yet you participate in society. Curious!


I can definitely count how many times I've flown in my adult life. But that is beside the point. Individual consumer choices could never have been enough to stop climate change. Many people still do not even believe it's a threat to human life as we know it.


So you are saying we cannot rely on personal choices but need to use regulation? I agree.


I bet driving sedans/trucks powered by 4.4-8.2 liter (!) engines consuming 15-35 liters per 100km didnt help the situation either.


That is good context but it's not quite satisfying. It would be better if exxon was honest about the science and didnt try to obfuscate it with a coordinated campaign.


loved this comment (saw it on twitter):

Well, the scientists seemed not very grilled at all, they seemed eager to share their opinions. It's not the scientists fault executives tend to not listen to what the data says in favor of profits.

Boeing is another company that comes to mind.


It's not uncommon for factions of an organization to have different opinions, and for a higher-up to pick a side as a winner.

You could look at any decision any large company has ever made and certainly find advocates arguing for the opposing side.

That doesn't make every one of those decisions fraud.


Yeah, shocked to see someone being questioned by Congress so willing to own up to what happened. I don't think business ethics courses back then covered "avoid the apocalypse" and it seems subsequent CEOs went to the same business school.


Boeing CEO is an engineer (rightfully so). There's probably a more systemic issue with that company than executives ignoring scientists.


It’s like the “Aristocrats” joke, but instead the punchline is “capitalism!”


You can see that they where successful in their mission to spread FUD about climate change in these very comments.

Pretty scary for a supposedly educated crowd.


The strange part is that even if all climate change scientists are completely wrong, what do we really stand to lose by switching to renewable sources and just polluting less?

If you could replace a coal guzzling, smoke spilling power plant with a silent solar panel field, why wouldn't you?


> what do we really stand to lose by switching to renewable sources and just polluting less?

Except that if we really knew about climate change in the 1980’s we should have been building Nuclear Power Plants at a massive rate. However, a lot of environmental groups were against that, and actively were anti-nuclear. In fact, some countries and states are decommissioning active working nuclear power plants. There is no room for anti-nuclear sentiment if you really believe that climate change is the biggest threat to civilization.


Or should we hold environmental groups accountable for being anti-nuclear when surely they knew that nuclear would have resulted in less CO2, yet they openly opposed it.


At this point, nuclear power needs to be rebranded to be viable. The tech is fantastic but 50 years of apolcalypse porn has ensured people see mushroom clouds as soon as they hear "nuclear". A name change should be the first priority.


Once there was a good association when it was called atomic power. That was before 80s.

We could call it rock power, but the bad association will persist and get boosted by alarmists anyway.


Lawrence Livermore National Labs publishes a great chart of US energy sources and consumption. In 2018 we used over 101 quadrillion British Thermal Units of energy. Renewables are a tiny fraction, mostly hydro and biomass.

https://www.llnl.gov/news/us-energy-use-rises-highest-level-...


Electricity and heat generation is a lot but still just 25% of emissions. It's probably the easiest part to fix and it's still hard.

The harder part of the pie would be agriculture and industry.


I am reminded of the comic, "What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?"


> what do we really stand to lose by switching to renewable sources and just polluting less?

Hundreds of millions of human lifetimes of effort? Extreme social unrest? See what's going on in France, Holland, and Chile for a taste.


I wouldn’t doubt that hacker news has its share of fake accounts, shills, and propagandist. Just like the rest of social media, people are being manipulated by special interests with lots of money.


Because anyone who disagrees with my pov must either be fake or a paid-off shrill.


That’s a logical fallacy. Fake accounts and misinformation/propaganda campaigns can (and do) exist outside of mine or your behavior or feelings.


"We were excellent scientists" - great quote!


Imagine yourself in their shoes. You have been trying to bring to attention the adverse effects of fossil fuels to the planet. And you are doing this using scientific methods and getting them peer reviewed. And you have built models that, in hindsight, are as accurate as possible.

And what reception you get for this? A large apparatus is deployed to label your work as pseudo-science. Your credibility is questioned.

In that light, those 4 words, "We are excellent scientists!" is profound. It contains within it the struggle, suffering, pain, integrity and pride of the experience they have gone through for many decades.

This reminded me of Clair Cameron Patterson [0] and his struggle to bring to light the effect of lead in gasoline. Cosmos' "The Clean Room" [1] is an accessible view on this subject.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clair_Cameron_Patterson

[1] https://imdb.com/title/tt3410940/


Why is this downvoted? If you watch the video it's the outstanding quote from the entire clip. They predicted everything accurately!


And precisely!


what if in 1982 there were a million such studies with predictions all over the place and that one just happens to match what really happened?

what if Exxon uses this as an explanation for why this result wasn’t taken into account? “It was not possible to predict which prediction would have turned out correct, you can’t fault us for that!”


Why would a company with the biggest interest in a conservative estimate happen to be the one with the most accurate study? If anything, the argument should be opposite: their study doesn't hold any water because of a potential conflict of interest.


It’s a study you know about. You don’t know how many studies you don’t know about. Nobody cares about other studies if they don’t turn out to make accurate predictions.


I answered a similar question in another thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21369078

TLDR: That model was fairly in line with what the scientific community was saying at the time. That excuse might have carried some weight in the early 70s but it was marginalized by scientific consensus in the 80s.


Didn't we get confirmation of global warming only in the 2000s with the IPCC and all? Who would have trusted Exxon then? Who would trust it now? Would you have changed your ways had you read that Exxon report? Have you really changed your ways by now?


You don't think (one of) the largest oil companies in the world coming out and saying "we've got to stop using so much oil" would be convincing?


They're evil. Nothing they do is convincing. Many people would think the reality is opposite of what Exxon claims. Do you believe Exxon now?


From the first IPCC reports in 1990, to today, the IPCC's prognostications about the future became more and more clairvoyant. Yes, it wasn't till the early 2000s that there was enough observed multiple sources of information about man-made climate change that they could say that with 90% (later 99%) certainty, but they made clear the future risk. If you look at the early IPCC reports, they made it clear that CO2 was a greenhouse gas, but at least in the United States, the fossil fuel industry fought tooth and nail and spent huge amounts of money to fight a regulatory classification of it as such. It wasn't until 2009 that was.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVz67cwmxTM


The first IPCC report was released in 1990 and I don't think it left many ambiguity about the existence of a greenhouse effect and its cause.


More of them followed to confirm the findings. Satellites were launched, degrees issued to thousands of new scientists to confirm this. Would you have trusted Exxon in the 1980s?


So she had a phrase there "you understood the consequences [of 1 degree of temperature rise]". Am I missing something? What _are_ the consequences? Record breaking prosperity worldwide? Best I can tell there's no tangible negative impact on the homo sapiens so far, but there _is_ very much a tangible positive impact. I'm not saying we're not on a dangerous trajectory, don't get me wrong, but if you're honest, you have to also consider the consequences of _not_ using all those fossil fuels, especially 20-30 years ago when tech to replace them simply wasn't available.


False


Do you want to do something about this? I suggest joining the Sunrise Movement. Go to https://www.sunrisemovement.org/ to join.


So... maybe we should find out what they’re predicting for 2056?


https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/02/SPM1...

1.5 - 2C depending on how hard (if at all) we cut emissions going forward.


great link.

Though it seems to estimate 1.5 - 2C ONLY IF CO2 emissions reach net zero by 2055. Take a look at graph (c) and guess how likely that would be. (Not likely at all). Sad times.



Different document. I think this is probably referring to https://insideclimatenews.org/sites/default/files/documents/... since that's what the news articles making the same claim are based on.

There's a few things worthy of note in there. Firstly, according to the document Exxon wasn't at all sure that their products actually were causing global warming. Secondly, they predicted if it did happen it would have much lower impacts than claimed by all the climate activists and press pointing to Exxon's "accurate" predictions as proof they knew their products were destroying the world. Highlights inclue 1.9 to 3.1 C warming by 2090, no potentially serious climate-caused problems until the end of this century, and rising sea levels maybe causing coastal flooding in several centuries but only at the upper end of possible warming. Thirdly, they argue any major shift from fossil fuels would have had to be based on nuclear rather than solar and wind - not exactly popular with environmentalists, to put it lightly.


I mean, until somebody does something about it, there's value in repeating it over and over. Maybe at some point it'll sink in how criminal these companies are.


Indeed! Let's just repeat it until nobody can forget it ever again and also drop tax avoidance by these huge companies in the mix.

Maybe there is still hope for something we can call justice and probably the money they stole from exploiting the commons can be used for something more valuable than personal gains of some managers and stakeholders.



[video]


We can blame Exxon and greedy capitalists as much as we want but this is the textbook example of a system with perversive incentives. Human society, and I would even argue human nature in itself, presents us with the wrong system of incentives for self preservation at scale.


This is exactly what laws & regulations are for. So corporations can't do whatever they want, because they 'care' only about profits, and will do anything for profit within allowed framework.

Note, that 'care' in in quotes. It is because corporations are not humans, or even alive. They are not greedy, good, bad, evil etc. Do not anthropomorphize entity created to maximize profits, led by top people hired to do just that.


So our incentive structure- capitalism- is to blame.


Maybe it reflects human nature. Most scientists agree that being overweight is harmful to our health, yet the majority of us can't even control how much food we consume, in spite of the strong motivation of self-preservation. If we can't even control ourselves to do that, how can we expect to control ourselves to reduce carbon-emitting activities?

Humans aren't that far removed from animals. If you keep giving a cat food, it may keep eating until it's sick. Communism or capitalism can't change human nature.


Attributing something to human nature is about as much an argument as attributing it to God's plan.


The point is that capitalism just allows people to realise their preferences, and peoples' preferences as revealed by ther actions clearly show they don't really care that much about preventing climate change. No economic system is going to change this, unless it prevents people from doing what they want (what they want is to enjoy a good standard of living, with pickup trucks, SUVs, regular flights, large beef hamburgers...).


> that capitalism just allows people to realise their preferences

That is by no means "just" what it does.


Here is something else that oil company know and keep secret.

The unexploited oil reserves in the world are at least twice as big as we think.


Not exactly- the term "provable reserves" has a technical meaning, and is usually used with a modifier like "economically recoverable".

Because the public misunderstands that term to mean "absolute amount of supply ever to become available" doesn't make it misleading or even a secret.


That's astounding, because the IPCC did not accurately predict 2019's climate change or CO2 in 1982. In fact, Exxon scientists must be time travelers to have foreseen the rise of China at a time when all of the USA was afraid of losing to the Japanese.


One reason the IPCC might have missed that prediction in 1982 is that the organisation didn't exist. It was founded in 1988 [1].

If you meant the scientific community as a whole, a majority was predicting anthropogenic global warming since the 1970's, but consensus only started in the 1980's [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergovernmental_Panel_on_Cli...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_scie...


I meant, show me where Exxon scientists predicted this,

https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/jrcsh/files/fossil_emissions_...

I'll wait.


You're implying that climate scientists had to have known the relative emissions per country into the far future. This is wrong for several reasons:

* It doesn't matter where the CO2 is released, only that it's released.

* Climate models don't predict human carbon emissions. They predict how the climate will respond.

* The climate has a lot of momentum, so a sudden increase in carbon doesn't immediately cause a change in temperature. For example, if we completely stop releasing carbon, the climate will still warm another 0.6C [1]

[1] https://theconversation.com/if-we-stopped-emitting-greenhous...


> * It doesn't matter where the CO2 is released, only that it's released.

This is the key point. The global economy grows at its own rate, and so we would have produced roughly the same amount of carbon even without China, the distribution would have just been different because similar amounts of manufacturing would have just happened elsewhere.

So even without being able to predict the rise of China, the scientists could have roughly predicted the carbon concentration.


The discussion is about Exxon, an oil company. The rise of China was fueled predominantly by coal. Thanks for admitting the submission title is an outrageous lie though.


>The discussion is about Exxon, an oil company. The rise of China was fueled predominantly by coal.

I don't see how this relates to anything.

>Thanks for admitting the submission title is an outrageous lie though.

You seem to be immune to logic, so I can imagine how you arrived at that conclusion.


>doesn't understand how the source of CO2 relates to discussion

>"you seem to be immune to logic"

The jokes write themselves.


This is kind of cherry picking evidence because it also doesn't show the rest of the world, especially the developing world, where the quickest path to GDP growth is, at least historically, to build a lot of coal plants.

Arguably, if India, which is currently the world's fastest develop major economy, goes the way of China, we are all screwed. Doubtful they will however, because they are at the ground zero of climate change and other pollution problems due to the fragility of the himalayan glaciers (which cause the monsoons), low latitude climate, and a large portion of the eastern side of country being at/near sea level, particularly at the delta of the Ganges River (not to mention neighboring extremely low lying Bangladesh, which may be the source of one of the largest sources of displaced people in human history since it's basically one big river delta).


The most likely scenario is that their predictions at the time have been surprisingly neatly counterbalanced by what actually happened, some big factors off the top of my head:

1. The industrial/economic/demographic collapse in the (former) USSR and Eastern Europe 2. Huge per capita emissions reductions in Western Europe and the USA 3. Stagnation in Japan 3. Slower global population growth than predicted


Hell, the IPCC did not accurately predict 2019 climate change back in 1998 when they had far better models with far more computing resources.


It's pretty hard to predict since you need to guess how much more C02 humanity will emit in that time period among other things. Your models could be mathematically perfect and you'd still be off.


If they were able to predict the amount co2 precisely by country they’d be very rich people by gaming the stock market.


This seems very hard to believe - mainstream science struggles to predict accurately even 5 years out. In 1982 they were predicting the ice caps would be gone by 2000, acid rain, holes in the ozone layer etc. But this one guy is the Nostradamus of climate and everyone ignored him?

Note: I am not saying that climate change isn’t real. I’m just sceptical that someone in 1982 made accurate predictions of 2019. And all points in between? Without anyone noticing?


> In 1982 they were predicting the ice caps would be gone by 2000

Citation please. No one was predicting that.

Edit: Also I have little problem believing that internal scientists knew the problem, and the extent, long before the outside world recognised the urgency. That also applied to tobacco, asbestos, leaded fuel - they had research showing issues decades before the wider world had the weight of evidence, or even recognised there was a problem to investigate...


> This seems very hard to believe - mainstream science struggles to predict accurately even 5 years out

In general, this might be true. Predicting the future is harder than it seems. But it depends completely on the type of system (chaotic or not), and how well we understand it. We can predict the position of the Earth thousands of years into the future.

Regarding climate models, you might be underestimating how good they were in the early 80's. Here are old models' projections compared with the actual temperature records up to 2017 [1]. I'm not an expert so I don't know if they excluded early bad models, but they included all the IPCC models.

The graph that AOC showed was pretty small and grainy. It's also compressed along the x-axis (140 years), and has a high aspect ratio. It's possible that she, or her aides, picked the best one for the presentation. But given the performance of the models at the time, it's not unreasonably good. It actually seems worse than the 1990 IPCC model, but that's just my opinion.

[1] https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-how-well-have-climate-m...


The models used today have all predicted more warming than actually happened, so I'm very skeptical models got progressively worse over the decades instead of better.

Also note it's impossible for models in the 80's to have been accurate because the temperature data for the past itself has been continuously adjusted by climatologists since then, so any models calculated back then would be using temperatures now considered wrong (and not by a small amount!). Either the old models are wrong or the old temperature records are wrong, but they can't both be true simultaneously.


> The models used today have all predicted more warming than actually happened

Source? Although all of this depends on what you mean by "more", as in what you assume the error bars on the models are.

> temperature data for the past itself has been continuously adjusted

Source?

> Also note it's impossible for models in the 80's to have been accurate

It's not actually. Models don't depend on the temperature. The models could have been (and in fact, were) accurate despite the alleged wrong inputs.

> Either the old models are wrong or the old temperature records are wrong, but they can't both be true simultaneously.

It doesn't really matter in the context of the legal argument about what Exxon thought to be true in 1982.


Your information on is out of date. None of the models predicted the big lag in temperature increase in the oughts but since 2015 air temperatures have jumped up to right where the consensus predictions said they would be.

Yes, scientists have been busy trying to refine their models and understanding of temperatures. But my understanding is that, quantitatively, the inaccuracies in the old temperature data was pretty small compared year to year variation. No prediction is ever perfect, even in QED you have one part in a trillion error, but instead you look at whether the result is in the error bars and whether the error bars are narrow enough to be useful.


If the models didn't predict the lag, it stands to reason that the models weren't accurate, even if current temperatures align with them. That is to say that the current alignment is just coincidental.

If I remember correctly, the lag was likely caused by not correctly accounting for deep ocean heating. That's a huge missing piece of the simulation, so how could the models from back then possibly have been accurate?


> If the models didn't predict the lag, it stands to reason that the models weren't accurate, even if current temperatures align with them. That is to say that the current alignment is just coincidental.

Or the lag was a minor factor that only briefly overrode the primary drivers of climate change, which have since reasserted themselves. I think we both know what the smart bet is.


The lag isn't a minor factor though. We are talking a decade plus of incorrect predictions. Newer models that have taken deep ocean warming into account are probably more accurate.

The oceans are now significantly warmer than earlier models predicted. There's no way that doesn't impact the outcome.


Actually newer models don't predict the lag / the pause at all.

Instead what happened is they decided the temperature records that showed a pause were wrong, went back and adjusted them so there's no longer any real pause if you look at the latest temperature datasets. The entire thing was written off as a giant measurement error.


They are climate models, not weather models. Buried somewhere in the IPCC reports is the sorts of time space they apply to. I vaguely remember 10 years or so. I do distinctly remember thinking during the pause if something dramatic didn't happen by 2016 they were in serious trouble, because that was at the end of the range.

> That is to say that the current alignment is just coincidental.

Sort of. The model is (heatIn - heatOut - seaAbsorption) = surface weather. They got the seaAbsorption wrong, something they later figured out with the Argo network as you noted. But that means they got the primary driver of global warming, heatOut dropping as CO2 increases, right. Which sadly means if you wait long enough, their predictions were always going be right because in the end heatIn - heatOut is all that matters.


Yes, our models were inaccurate for the oughts and early 2010s. There are tons of positive and negative feedback loops which our climate models are probably very badly calibrated for. But those models did have accurate predictions of what the temperature would be for 2019 so you have to give them credit for that.

But honestly it's the inaccuracy of current climate models that make me so concerned about global warming.


> The models used today have all predicted more warming than actually happened

Do you have a good source for this assertion? I mean, there are still people claiming that there is no warming at all, so "all" models seems like too strong a claim.


I’m also curious about this. Exxon being the most valuable company back then was basically the ‘Google’ of its time: they employed the smartest people and developed breakthrough technologies. I wouldn’t be surprised if their heavily funded scientists were able to make accurate predictions.

There’s also the possibility that their predictions gave a wide range and we’re simply within that band today.


> this one guy is the Nostradamus of climate and everyone ignored him?

I have no trouble believing that. Given a thousand predictions, with two thousand possible outcomes you'll have someone guess right 50% of the time. These are educated guesses and no one knows the odds of guessing right, but I'm not surprised we can find a random person that made a prediction that fits a certain part of what we're seeing today.


>I’m just sceptical that someone in 1982 made accurate predictions of 2019. And all points in between? Without anyone noticing?

The Exxon scientists' predictions were proprietary company information at the time. Exxon didn't publish this information, they used it to their advantage.


There were models in this era predicting that we were headed for disastrous global cooling. Ascribing any particular import to one of a thousand studies retroactively is just hindsight and survivor bias.


This post is about what was believed at Exxon then. What are you on about?


I'm commenting on a thread about how unreliable climate models are. What are you on about?




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: