Those ‘Secret’ Documents Outing ExxonMobil Were Actually Publicly Available

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The supposedly secret documents exposing ExxonMobil’s decision to hide knowledge about climate change were actually not so secret — in fact, they were made publicly available, according to one climate scientist.

Reporters were able to find and peruse most of the documents InsideClimate News (ICN) unearthed online, yet key figures in the inquisition of Exxon have been loathe to admit as much, until now.

Michael MacCracken, who is a member with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and touted as the person who tipped ICN off to the secret reports, noted in a blog post June 8 that one of the documents written by Exxon scientist Dr. Brian Flannery, was peer-reviewed and open to the public.

“In DOE’s major, widely peer-reviewed 1985 climate change assessment, Exxon’s leading climate change scientist for the past several decades, Dr. Brian Flannery, co-authored the chapter on projecting climate change,” MacCracken wrote.

If the documents were associated with the Department of Energy, then it couldn’t very well have been stowed away under cloak and dagger.

Flannery’s chapter, McCracken goes on to write, concludes that, “climate models currently available, when run with standard scenarios of fossil fuel CO2 emissions, indicate a global warming of the order of 1ºC by the year 2000, relative to the year 1850, and an additional 2º-5ºC warming over the next century.”

ICN has continued to reference MacCracken as one of their primary sources for the documents.

“The first break came, as I said, when my colleague Dave Hasemyer spoke to Mike MacCracken, this long-time government scientist, who told us about Exxon,” ICN reporter Neela Banerjee told the National Press Club June 6.

Recently released emails indicate that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and UCS have coordinated efforts to prosecute global warming skeptics since before the ICN news hit the airwaves.

Schneiderman began his Exxon investigation in November, which, according to a New York Times report at the time, was “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” from the oil company dating back more than 40 years. Schneiderman also demanded information on global warming skeptics.

Some law experts are dubious about the case against Exxon, basing much of their skepticism on the shear amount of information available to the public about global warming.

Merritt Fox, a Michael E. Patterson professor of law at Columbia Law School, told a Columbia Law School panel in May that he believes Schneiderman’s investigation into Exxon is like tilting at windmills, as the oil company does not appear to have broken the law.

Since “the market was well supplied with information about climate change,” Fox said, “It’s not, I don’t know what the documents would discover, but I’d be kind of amazed if what the Exxon scientists knew was so different from what other scientists outside Exxon knew and were publicly available that it would change that total mix in a significant way.”

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