“It wasn’t just big oil that knew about climate change decades ago”: New report reveals coal knew too

The coal industry knew about the danger of rising greenhouse gas emissions as early as 1966.


“Exxon Knew” has become a chant, a tagline, and even a hashtag to highlight the fact that the fossil fuel corporation knew about climate change decades ago. Now a new report reveals that it wasn’t just big oil that knew, coal knew too.

The coal industry knew about the danger of rising greenhouse gas emissions as early as 1966, reveals Élan Young in an article published by HuffPost on Friday. The article tells the story of an unearthed journal discovered by Chris Cherry, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, that contains a passage from a coal research company discussing the evidence of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere:

“There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels,” wrote Garvey. “If the future rate of increase continues as it is at the present, it has been predicted that, because the CO2 envelope reduces radiation, the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere will increase and that vast changes in the climates of the earth will result.

The article, written by James R. Garvey, president of a now-defunct research firm Bituminous Coal Research Inc., even goes on to say, “Such changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London.”

It looks like rather than just a few big oil giants, it’s the whole fossil fuel industry that was aware of climate change as far back as the 1960s.

Despite overwhelming evidence of climate change, fossil fuel companies today still maintain one of two stances: climate change denial, or accepting climate change but proclaiming that fossil fuels are necessary for affordable energy.

As Young points out in her article:

“While Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world and the largest producer of coal in the U.S., now acknowledges climate change on its website, it has been directly and indirectly involved in obfuscating climate science for decades.

As recently as 2015, Peabody Energy argued that carbon dioxide was a “benign gas essential for all life.” 

Peabody released a statement to HuffPost stating:

“Peabody recognizes that climate change is occurring and that human activity, including the use of fossil fuels, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. We also recognize that coal is essential to affordable, reliable energy and will continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future.

The trial for the landmark climate fraud case against Exxon just wrapped at the beginning of the month, capping an investigation that began over four years ago. While the repercussions of this latest revelation are unclear one thing is for sure, environmentalists and climate activists aren’t going to let these things go without a fight.


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