2016 Climate Change Survey Results

The 2016 results of our annual Climate Change survey are out. Every year we ask our network of some 7,000+ oil and gas professionals for their views on this contentious topic; our aim is to understand what they believe and feel about the issues, and what the implications for management are – it is not a survey to establish the rights and wrongs of a particular scientific argument. Over the years most respondents (92%) now agree that climate change is happening, but only 50% say it is due to human activities rather than natural causes – this is in contrast to the general population, where surveys in the US and worldwide tend to show a majority assuming it is due to human causes.


To mitigate Climate Change, inevitably, oil and gas professionals would prefer to see a reduction in deforestation and the use of coal rather than a reduction in the use of oil and gas; and as alternatives they prefer the use of nuclear and solar power. Although a minority were strongly against any government intervention, most called for incentives to use alternatives such as renewables or a tax on emissions to help address the problem. For the full report, click here

For managers in the industry, at all levels, this issue raises all sorts of challenges. Reputational – making it harder to recruit and retain talent, especially among Millennials; financial – it’s another risk investors and bankers have to take into account; and strategic – what will happen to the traditional business model, and where will the new competition come from?

Our thanks go to all who responded, and to our partners at The Oil & Gas Year who once again helped to distribute the survey, and to the European Gas Hub and Eurasian Business Briefing, whose readers also responded.

We would love to hear your views on what Climate Change (whether or not you think it is happening or why) means for careers and management development in the upstream business: does it call for a new approach to career development, or different management skills?


  1. Adrian Heafford says:

    One of the problems is that climate change is presented as either natural or human and time scales are not presented. So climate change clearly occurs almost totally naturally when viewed over a period of the last million years – humans were not responsible for ice-ages or interglacials. But since the industrial revolution climate change has been mostly human driven with Carbon dioxide levels (isotopically determined as of human origin) rising enormously. If the question was “Is climate change over the next 100 years predominately of human or natural origin” you may get different answers. It does show the need for more education e.g. the relative contribution of differences in solar forcing due to sun spots which is well known but lower than the human caused rise of about 1 degree over the last century. Also the question is not about whether natural changes can be small/large, but what contribution humans contribute on top of that and how quickly this is occurring. We can’t do much about sun spots or orbital differences but we can do a lot about greenhouse gases.

  2. colin summerhayes says:

    As an ex-EXXON and ex-BP employee, I find it good to see that O & G professionals are coming round to the view that we humans are contributing significantly to global warming. Having studied the geology of climate change for nigh on 50 years, I find that there is abundant evidence from the geological record for fluctuations in carbon dioxide having caused temperatures to rise (e.g. Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) or fall (e.g the post-Cretaceous decline in temperature to the present (what Charles Lyell called The Great Cooling). Equally, we can see from the ice core record that changes in temperature can cause changes in CO2 (which then feed back into causing further temperature change). There ought to be no dispute in geologists’ minds about these readily identifiable links. The evidence exists in the rise and fall of the ocean’s carbonate compensation depth, in the ratio between calcareous and aragonite fossils, in the numbers of pores in fossil leaves, in the alkenone composition of fossil plankton, etc, etc. Many geologists are unfamiliar with these signals and with these aspects of the geological record. My book Earth’s Climate Evolution (Wiley 2015) spells out the detail. But so too do other recent paleoclimate books by the likes of Bill Ruddiman, or Michael Bender. Keeping up to date with the original paleoclimate literature, when it’s not really germane to the daily business of finding oil and gas, is tough. Most geology professionals just do not have the time. That’s why books like mine and Ruddiman’s and Bender’s fill the gap – they save you the trouble of hunting down the original articles. They show you what the data is and how you can delve deeper into it. And for the most part they are NOT about models. I humbly suggest that a little more reading of these kinds of books (rather than mindless dismissal of IPCC reports) would do everyone a big favour and level the playing field somewhat..

    • George Pinckney says:

      I strongly suggest you review the December 2015 YouTube video by Dr. Gary Smith on Climate Change. He makes the point that the data indicates temperature controls CO2 – rather than CO2 controls temperature – and that there are a lot of “inconvenient facts” with many of the climate change advocates’ arguments. CO2 levels are presently close to the lowest levels they have been in the history of planet earth and CO2 is very beneficial for plant growth.

  3. Hello Angus, many thanks for this survey feedback and many thanks for keeping the subject matter in the front line and for keeping me in the loop also.
    I am never sure why people answer these surveys the way they do (through a basis of knowledge, experience or specific expertise or from a position of vested interest) but from your results it would appear that the oil and gas industry have a much broader understanding of the natural effects of our planet versus the industrial pollution effects being banded as the source of global warming. I do like to keep in touch with what is being said but the problem is always that writers of studies and research are always approaching their reports from a biased direction (either way) so it is quite difficult to reach any sort of sensible conclusion, especially when some of the reports contradict what we have learned from our own experiences so you start to wonder how much of the report is useful. One thing for sure that all scientists agree on and that is, once we have gone the earth will revert back to the forces of nature and take control again regardless of what we have done. It is just whether we will kill ourselves off before our wonderful planet does?
    Currently the Oil and Gas industry is in a bit of a slump and the recent news that OPEC have agreed to reduce output will impact the commercial side of the business and hopefully get some money circulating once again in new projects and geological investigations. Certainly London is very quiet currently and we are losing people from the industry which is a worry for the future. My own son has followed me into the industry, which a few years ago I was convinced was here for generations to come and whilst I am still of this view I realise that growth is now going to be very much slower and possibly declining with the concept of renewable energy, improved efficiency and electric power for vehicle motive power, so where his future lies will be an interesting development.
    Kind regards
    Roy Lord

  4. Collins Ibekwe says:

    Thanks for the feedback on the results of the climate change survey. It’s informative…interesting though that only 50% think it’s happening as a result of human activities rather than natural causes. Personally, I think it’s a combination of both. Human activities accelerate gradually rising global temperatures and that’s the crux of the matter. If nothing is done, it might lead to unintended negative consequences for everyone in the future.

    It is expedient that positive steps be taken towards lowering green house gases to stem global warming. For us in the upstream oil industry, a reduction in deforestation and the use of coal will have a positive mitigating impact but there are areas where we should take direct responsibility, for instance, reduction in gas flaring and environmental pollution. Solving these problems present financial and project viability challenges and that’s where external constraints like government intervention will have to come in and inconvenient as it may sound, force hands. It behooves managers in the industry then to evolve strategies to respond to the changing paradigm.

  5. Ron Masters says:

    If we contain warming to 2°C, as pledged by the world in the ratified COP21 agreement, we’ll drown New Orleans, Miami, and Boston, but won’t endanger global food production much. Unfortunately, it would require limiting cumulative CO2 emissions to an additional gigaton; I.e., about the size if proven oil reserves. Using only proven oil reserves; I.e., existing company assets, means no more oil & gas exploration. In fact it probably means putting every operation into brownfield mode, since it won’t be possible to eliminate all other emissions immediately. New capital projects really need to be renewables replacing electricity generation, saving oil for transport until it can be replaced by electric and biofuels. How can the industry possibly shut itself down voluntarily?

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