AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on oil companies and climate change

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on August 17, 2010

This is a list of papers on the oil companies and climate change. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

The oxymoron of ‘sustainable oil production’: the case of the Norwegian oil industry – Ihlen (2009) “Many oil companies have adopted the concept of sustainable development and claim that their production is sustainable. This might seem odd given that the oil industry depletes a non-renewable resource and that oil production also contributes to climate change. This paper analyses how the industry attempts to resolve this paradox, using the Norwegian oil industry as a case study. It is demonstrated how four rhetorical operations are used. By employing the topic of definition, the industry argues that it is sustainable because it (1) strives to cut its emissions and (2) manages oil resources with a long-term perspective until such time as technology will provide solutions. The industry then uses the topic of comparison to (3) discredit other energy sources as ‘unrealistic’ options and (4) compare the production in Norway with more polluting oil production elsewhere. Understanding this type of rhetoric is crucial for validating or criticizing the sustainability claims of the industry.”

Oil Companies and Climate Change: Inconsistencies between Strategy Formulation and Implementation? – Sæverud & Skjærseth (2007) “This article examines major oil companies in terms of climate strategies and their implementation. More specifıcally, it takes a critical look at Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil, and the relationship between rhetoric and action regarding investments in climate-friendly activities. Empirical evidence indicates a generally high degree of consistency between what these companies say and what they do, but interesting differences are also found: ExxonMobil has done somewhat more than its climate strategy formulations would suggest; Shell has done somewhat less; whereas BP’s activities are mainly in line with its statements. Factors at three levels contribute to explaining these differences: (1) the company level, 2) the political framework conditions in the various regions where the companies operate, 3) international climate cooperation. The fındings and explanations, although restricted to the three oil companies with regard to climate change, provide insight into the relationship between corporate strategies and implementation more generally. They offer understanding and analytical categories for assessing how well and why such multinational entities put into practice stated objectives.” [Full text]

Strategic Responses to Global Climate Change: Conflicting Pressures on Multinationals in the Oil Industry – Levy & Kolk (2002) “MNCs are increasingly facing global environmental issues demanding coordinated market and non-market strategic responses. The home country institutional context and individual company histories can create divergent pressures on strategy for MNCs based in different countries; however, the location of MNCs in global industries and their participation in ‘global issues arenas’ create issue-level fields within which strategic convergence might also be expected. This paper analyzes the responses of oil MNCs to climate change and finds that local context influenced initial corporate reactions, but that convergent pressures predominate as the issue matures.” [Full text]

The oil industry and climate change: strategies and ethical dilemmas – van den Hove et al. (2002) “This paper explores the different climate change strategies chosen by three major multinational oil corporations: ExxonMobil, TotalFinaElf and BP Amoco. They are referred to, as the `fight against emission constraints,’ `wait and see,’ and `proactive’ strategies, respectively. The justifications given to support these strategies are identified. They cover the business, scientific, political, economic, technological and social dimensions. In a business ethics framework, the issue of climate change brings forth an ethical dilemma for the oil industry, in the form of a tension between profits and CO2 emissions. The strategies are analysed as three attitudes towards this dilemma: (i) placing priority on the business consequences while weakening the perception that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change; (ii) avoiding responsibility; and (iii) placing priority on the need for a modification of the business process while limiting the negative effect in terms of business consequences. In conclusion, we propose that beyond the ethical issues proper to climate change itself, additional ethical issues are raised if society at large is instrumentalised by an industry in its search for profit. Publicly gauging and valorising the ethical commitment of a corporation appear as ways of inducing more collaborative and proactive attitudes by business actors.”

Winds of Change: Corporate Strategy, Climate change and Oil Multinationals – Kolk & Levy (2001) “Behind pessimistic expectations regarding the future of an international climate treaty, substantial changes can be observed in company positions. Multinationals in the oil and car industries are increasingly moving toward support for the Kyoto Protocol, and take measures to address climate change. This article analyses developments in the oil industry over the past few years, observing considerable shifts in corporate climate strategies. It compares British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, Texaco and ExxonMobil, of which currently only the latter strongly opposes a climate treaty. BP and Shell have moved decisively toward supporting emission reductions and investing in renewable energy, while Texaco has begun to move in a similar direction. Divergent behaviour can be explained in terms of company-specific factors, particularly corporate histories of profitability and location, market assessments, degrees of centralization and the presence of climate scientists. Ongoing stakeholder pressures, which focus on ‘first-mover’ BP, are evaluated.” [Full text]

Climate Change and the Oil Industry: Common Problems, Different Strategies – Skjærseth & Skodvin (2001) “This analysis shows that there are striking differences in the ways European-based and US-based oil companies have responded to the climate issue—here represented by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Exxon Mobil—and that one major source of explanation for this difference is found in the national political contexts of the companies’ home-base countries. The importance of political context implies that the conditions for changing oil companies’ climate strategies are likely to be located in the political context rather than in the companies themselves.” [Full text]

Beauty and the beast? BP’s and Exxon’s positions on global climate change – Rowlands (2000) “The author attempts first to determine whether there are significant differences among the major oil companies’ positions on global climate change, and second to discover the reasons behind any differences found. The investigation focuses upon Exxon and BP Amoco—two of the world’s largest oil companies. The differences between the two, with regard to their attitudes and actions on global climate change, are striking: whereas Exxon is continuing to act as one might initially expect (resisting proactive policies on climate change), BP Amoco appears more willing to contemplate a world that uses less oil. Attempts to explain these differences focus upon the companies’ respective interests, their management structures, and their nationalities. It appears that all factors are important, at least to some degree. The paper concludes with a discussion of research limitations and suggestions.”

Closely related

Papers on AGW denialism.


4 Responses to “Papers on oil companies and climate change”

  1. Magnus W said

    I had an article in a Swedish newspaper about Oil/gas/coal and climate…

    some of the stuf in it where taken from thees articles… not spot on but they might be of interest:

    Denialism: what is it ans how should scientists respond?
    european journal of public health vol. 19 no.1, 2-4
    Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods (SCAMs): Science and the politics of Doubt
    Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 78, No. 1, February 2008, 2-38

  2. Ari Jokimäki said

    Thanks Magnus. Both papers are already in the paperlist of AGW denialism. I’ll keep this list specifically for the oil company papers.

    Nice article – although the google translator didn’t seem to do very well with it. 🙂

  3. Dan Pangburn said

    From 2001 through June 2010 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 20% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001 while the average global temperature has not increased significantly and the trend of yearly averages from 2001 through 2009 is down. The El Nino that made early 2010 appear to be a bit warmer than the down trend, peaked in March, 2010 and average global temperature is now declining.

    This El Niño warmed the air enough for NOAA to announce the warmest ever period. They failed to say that ‘ever’ included only the last 130 years or so which includes part of the recovery from the Little Ice Age. They also failed to mention that the record was only 0.02C higher. A more correct announcement would have been that the temperature has not increased significantly for over a decade. Saying that the average global temperatures are the hottest on record is about as profound as saying that you drove 10,000 miles last year and the last 10 days were among the greatest distance traveled since the beginning of the year.

    Research, with latest findings regarding projected temperature trends is reported at It presents a rational equation that accurately calculates the average global temperatures since 1895 with a coefficient of determination of 0.88. That means that it explains 88% of the measured temperatures for 114 years and counting. The best that GCMs have done is significantly less than this. The equation predicts that the trend of average global temperatures will be down. The above link and sub links, including links to the temperature data reported by the five reporting agencies, track the data back to the published credible sources.

    As the atmospheric CO2 continues to increase and the average global temperature does not, perhaps the comments of ill-informed people will subside.

  4. Ari Jokimäki said

    Dan, your post is completely off-topic for this thread. Please stay on topic.

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