Darren Aronofsky’s Climate Series “Black Gold” Exposes ExxonMobil Cover-Up

The controversial docuseries explores how one of America’s largest oil corporations concealed evidence surrounding climate change

By Maya Richard-Craven

July 9, 2022


Photos Credit: Black Gold/Paramount+/TIME Studios

In July 1977, ExxonMobil senior scientist James Black delivered a presentation before a group of powerful figures in the oil industry. His research showed that carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels would likely warm the planet and potentially threaten humanity. The executives in the room listened patiently, then left. In the years that followed, some took no action. In the case of ExxonMobil, the company did everything it could to sow doubt about the science and maximize its profits. 

In Darren Aronofsky’s climate series Black Gold we hear former ExxonMobil scientists and renowned politicians speak about the company’s three-decade-long cover-up. ExxonMobil influenced the public’s perception of climate change in order to continue profiting off of the oil industry. The three-episode series was produced by Protozoa and TIME studios and directed by Gabrielle Schonder and Zach Heinzerling.  

Throughout the series, environmentalists like Al Gore, James Hansen, and Anthony Leiserowitz provide commentary on how ExxonMobil hid research that acknowledged the potential threats of climate change. “What the leadership of ExxonMobil did was the most deeply immoral, the most unethical act I have seen in my lifetime,” says former presidential candidate Al Gore.

Black Gold also dives into the history of Global Climate Coalition (GCC), an organization which appeared to be focused on climate justice but really intended to stop climate activists. Members of GCC opposed taking measures to reduce greenhouse gases and challenged research behind global warming. The coalition only lasted for 12 years after membership declined as truth about the role of greenhouse gases in climate change became more mainstream. 

The United Nations IPCC has issued a series of agreements for taking action on climate change such as the Kyoto Protocol. In 1997, over 150 countries agreed to a binding framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol after a meeting with the GCC. 

Black Gold brings in the audience to Big Oil’s playbook to protect itself from any meaningful climate change regulation,” says co-director Gabrielle Schonder. “Black Gold is important because there is an entire generation that has not been around to witness much of the history we cover in the series. This is a primer for that younger generation to give them a sense of how we got here.”