1980 Internal Exxon Memorandum: Greenhouse Program

June 9, 1980 internal memorandum from Exxon Research and Engineering’s H.N. Weinberg to H. Shaw and N.R. Werthamer about Exxon’s CO2 research initiative, the “Greenhouse Program.” Shaw was a manager of the Environmental Area in Exxon Research & Engineering and an early advocate for the company’s research of atmospheric CO2. Werthamer was Shaw’s boss. This memo shows that internal CO2 research was not taken lightly by Exxon; rather, it was considered important enough to be funded and debated by at least one senior vice president in the company.

This memo details a disagreement between Exxon’s Senior Vice President George Piercy and Weinberg. Piercy, who questioned Weinberg’s argument about the capacity of oceans to hold high concentrations of CO2, thought that oceans could hold higher concentrations without releasing it into the air. Weinberg, on the other hand, asserted that CO2 could move out of oceans and escape into the atmosphere “at the upwelling zones.” Although Weinberg wonders if Piercy may have been correct to challenge him, Weinberg was actually right about the global circulation patterns of CO2 – though the world’s oceans, for the time being, act as a global carbon sink overall.


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