Fossil Fuel Countries vs Scientific Evidence

Updated March 27, 2023

According to leaked draft documents, fossil fuel-producing countries successfully lobbied for changes that conflict with scientific evidence – attempting to sweep under the rug the danger of fossils and the emergence of cheap solar energy.

There was outrage across social media in late March when this was discovered followed by the watering down of critical findings in the United Nation’s latest report on climate change.

How did it happen?

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is supposed to study and report on the current scientific evidence on climate change—everything from its causes, to future risks, to options for minimising or mitigating the human activity that contributes to global warming.

Every seven years, scientists from around the world produce a series of reports culminating in one final “synthesis report.” The report released at the end of March was the sixth such report since 1990.

Each synthesis report is based on the work of three working groups of scientists, whose accumulated research can be thousands of pages long. Those thousands of pages are “synthesised” (amalgamated and boiled down) into a final report that is supposed to encapsulate the “objective truth” about climate change.

Its latest report, however, like every other one the IPCC has produced, wasn’t published until delegates from countries around the world had a chance to weigh in on the content of the Summary – the headlines of the report – that would go to policy makers (like Irish TDs), academics, and the media.

And that’s where the process got hijacked.

According to leaked draft documents, fossil fuel producing countries successfully lobbied for changes that, in many cases, conflict with scientific evidence. The world’s second largest oil producing state, Saudi Arabia, fought to include unreliable alternatives like carbon capture and storage (CCS) as solutions equal to renewable energy for solving the climate crisis.

And the Saudi’s lobbying effort worked. The Summary IPCC report features those self-serving “have your cake and eat it too” technologies prominently.

The representative for Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources even managed to prevent a key finding that “the root cause of climate change was the use of fossil fuels” from being included in the Report’s Summary. (see below)

report summary

Why all the shenanigans?

The fossil fuel giants are fighting hard because they can see the handwriting on the wall. Even with all their lobbying they couldn’t completely bury two of the UN scientists’ most important findings: 1) cheap solar energy – the per unit cost of solar energy is now 85% less expensive than it was only a decade ago, and 2) in many places around the globe, electricity from solar energy and other renewables is now cheaper than energy from fossil fuels.

Cheap solar energy says UN Report

That's the real news in the UN climate report.

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