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Database Provider

Author

Shannon Hall

Grades

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College

Subjects

Science, Social Studies, Economics, Civics, English Language Arts

Resource Type

  • Articles and Websites

Regional Focus

Global

Exxon Knew About Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago

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Synopsis
  • This article from Scientific American explains the extent of Exxon's knowledge about carbon emissions and climate change in the 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Students will learn about the investigation into Exxon and the steps the company took after completing their own research on global ocean and air temperatures. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This article lays out a strong argument regarding Exxon's knowledge of climate change and how their product negatively impacts the environment.
  • Students will gain an understanding of the historical and environmental implications of Exxon's actions. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should understand the role fossil fuels play in climate change. 

Differentiation

  • This article could be used in social studies classes that are discussing how individual and collective choices can impact humanity.
  • Economics and civics classes could use this article for a discussion or project about industries or businesses that pollute air, water, or land in indiscriminate ways and how to account for these externalities.
  • Try using this article as a resource in a debate about if fossil fuel companies should be liable for the environmental damages resulting from the carbon emissions from their products. 
  • Create a class timeline using the board and sticky notes. Have students add events to the timeline as you read about them. Once the article and timeline are complete, have a class discussion reflecting on your findings.
Scientist Notes
This article discusses controversy surrounding Exxon Mobile, their knowledge of anthropogenic climate change, and how they allegedly promoted climate misconceptions to protect their business. The article does include quotes and information from scientists, and statements from Exxon Mobile leaders. It also briefly touches on the common comparison of this situation to that of the tobacco companies in the past (for more information on this, check out the documentary Merchants of Doubt). This resource is a good way to discuss climate myths and misinformation, as well as the importance of checking sources for biases and conflicts of interest. The information presented is accurate and this resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • RI.CR.11–12.1 Accurately cite a range of thorough textual evidence and make relevant connections to strongly support a comprehensive analysis of multiple aspects of what an informational text says explicitly and inferentially, as well as interpretations of the text.
      • RI.CI.11–12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of an informational text and analyze how they are developed and refined over the course of a text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex account or analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
      • RI.IT.11–12.3 Analyze the impact of an author's choices as they develop ideas throughout the text regarding a complex set of ideas or sequence of events, and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop.
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