Yes, 70 years ago, the oil and auto industries knew all about CO2. And then covered it up.

Chris Leboutillier /

Guess who were major funders of the pioneering 1950s research that established the dangers of pollution in warming the world? None other than fossil fuel and transportation companies. And what did they do? They denied the science for decades and funded efforts to delay action.

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Those are the shocking findings of an article by Rebecca John, a researcher at the Virginia-based Climate Investigations Center, and published by the climate website DeSmog in which she uncovered documents showing how Big Oil and Big Auto money funded early research by Charles Keeling, who went on to create the “Keeling Curve” that charts the rise in carbon dioxide levels.

The groups coughed up $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, reports The Guardian.

According to the documents, a group called the Air Pollution Foundation funded Keeling’s efforts to measure CO2 along with a push to research the smog that regularly sat over Los Angeles at the time.

The documents “contain smoking gun proof that by at least 1954, the fossil fuel industry was on notice about the potential for its products to disrupt Earth’s climate on a scale significant to human civilization,” Geoffrey Supran, an expert in climate disinformation at the University of Miami, told the outlet.

“These findings are a startling confirmation, he added, that big oil has had its finger on the pulse of academic climate science for 70 years — for twice my lifetime — and a reminder that it continues to do so to this day. They make a mockery of the oil industry’s denial of basic climate science decades later.”

And you wonder why they call it “natural” gas?

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