Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago



By John H. Cushman Jr.
July 25, 2017

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Forty years ago, the documents show, industry officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power—something that is only now beginning to happen.

The research presents a distinct echo of an investigation of Exxon's climate record published by InsideClimate News almost two years ago, and casts significant new light on the duration and depth of industry's climate research—and how electric companies that use fossil fuels responded to the emerging science from the 1960's onward.

The 66-page report unearths research documents and testimony published but then largely forgotten decades before the climate crisis emerged as a key public issue.

And in this episode of the nation's climate history, once again, the same industry that foresaw the ultimate end of coal as a main fuel for power generation later supported actions to cast doubt on the science and to stave off policies to address the problem, funding groups that deny the scientific consensus and joining the main industry group that opposed participation in the first climate treaty. To this day, there are few federal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by utilities, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

"It's a story with striking parallels to the investigations into ExxonMobil's early knowledge of climate change and later efforts to deceive investors, policymakers and the public on the issue," EPI said.

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By 1988, the EPI report said, the Electric Power Research Institute, supported by the industry, acknowledged "a growing consensus in the scientific community that the greenhouse effect is real."

Even so, EPI said, some in the industry joined oil and other industries in the climate-denial front group known as the Global Climate Coalition, which lobbied successfully to get the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol during the George W. Bush administration.

It is striking that specialists in the industry understood the risks of climate change early enough to expand research efforts into the problem substantially in the 1970's, about the same time Exxon launched cutting-edge research on its own.

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