Center for Political Awareness

‘Smoking Gun Proof’: Fossil Fuel Industry Knew of Climate Danger as Early as 1954, Documents Show

Documents show industry-backed Air Pollution Foundation uncovered the severe harm climate change would wreak. (Click image for article.)

Photo: ‘They were omnipresent in this space,’ said Carroll Muffett, chief executive of the Center for International Environmental Law. Composite: The Guardian/Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego/Lyndon B Johnson Library

The fossil fuel industry funded some of the world’s most foundational climate science as early as 1954, newly unearthed documents have shown, including the early research of Charles Keeling, famous for the so-called “Keeling curve” that has charted the upward march of the Earth’s carbon dioxide levels.

A coalition of oil and car manufacturing interests provided $13,814 (about $158,000 in today’s money) in December 1954 to fund Keeling’s earliest work in measuring CO2 levels across the western US, the documents reveal.

Keeling would go on to establish the continuous measurement of global CO2 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This “Keeling curve” has tracked the steady increase of the atmospheric carbon that drives the climate crisis and has been hailed as one of the most important scientific works of modern times.

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