SEC and “Climate-Related Disclosures” – Oil companies knew their “Scope 3” liability decades ago

Uh, they knew….

The landmark move by the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday to force corporations to expand the evaluation and submission of “climate-related disclosures” reminded me that in our ClimateFiles collection we have evidence that oil companies have seen this coming for a long time. They certainly were aware that their products, used as directed. were a big part of the pollution causing global warming, and they clearly did not want those “emissions” to be regulated on any level of government.

Shell Oil estimated its downstream emissions in the 1980s

Decades before the term “Scope 3” downstream emissions became a term of art, we have a “confidential” Shell Oil document from 1988, wherein we find this shocking line :

“However, by the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.”

Meanwhile, in the back of that document, there is a table where they tabulate only their contribution to global problem. It only includes their “Scope 3” emissions. The table is titled “Contribution to global CO2 emissions from fuels sold by the Shell Group in 1984

The grand total is 4 percent of global CO2, 3.1% from oil derived fuels, their products, used as directed.

The text referring to that table:

Mobil CEO states that 95 percent of emissions are downstream “Scope 3” in 1998

Mobil CEO Lou Noto, speaking at an internal Mobil Oil meeting, a year before the merger with Exxon, clearly responding to internal questions about the subject says, “some of our employees are very upset…at Mobil’s negative attitude…”. and, “We will not take the BP position…that the science is closed!”

But a short way into his diatribe, he says:

“What is Mobil doing? Number one, we started an inventory of the greenhouse gases that we are responsible for in our facilities and that’s probably only five percent of the issue in Mobil’s case. Our customers using our products probably count for 95 percent of those emissions, but with the five percent that we are responsible for, we are doing an inventory.”

Funny it took so long for the government to require such admissions in writing for public and shareholder examination.

If you have other examples of fossil fuel companies having knowledge of their full responsibility for global warming pollution many years ago, please drop us a line at [email protected]

Posted by Climate Investigations Center