Oil companies and climate change Pacific Press/Getty Images

Exposing Climate Change Obstruction

Twenty-five years after adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the world has yet to implement a treaty that effectively addresses global warming. One reason is the oil and gas industry's highly effective infrastructure of pseudo-science.

STANFORD – Twenty-five years after the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on May 9, 1992, the world has yet to implement a treaty that effectively addresses global warming. Now, following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement, it is time to investigate more deeply the forces driving delay.

Throughout the 1990s, the American Petroleum Institute (API) – the largest oil and gas trade association and lobbying group in the US – repeatedly relied on economic models created by two economists, Paul Bernstein and W. David Montgomery, to argue that pro-climate policies would be devastatingly expensive. API successfully lobbied for delaying measures to address climate change solutions, using Bernstein and Montgomery’s projections to claim that job losses and economic costs would outweigh environmental benefits.

These arguments were used in 1991, to torpedo the idea of carbon dioxide controls; in 1993, against the Clinton administration’s proposed BTU tax (an energy surcharge that would have taxed sources based on their heat and carbon content); in 1996, against the goals of the UN Conference of Parties in Geneva (COP2); in 1997, against the goals of the UN Conference of Parties in Kyoto (COP3); and in 1998, against the Kyoto Protocol’s implementation. The API’s lobbying plan was repetitive. It also worked.

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