Energy Company’$ Use of Money to Deny Climate Change

by Duane Nichols on March 5, 2016

Tom Bond being interviewed by WBOY

Exxon’s Culpability is a Subject of Concern across America

Essay by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor and Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

Everyone knows by this time that by the 70′sand 80′s Exxon became aware at the highest levels of global warming. They even realized ” Through their own studies and their participation in government-sponsored conferences, company researchers had concluded that rising CO2 levels could create catastrophic impacts within the first half of the 21st century if the burning of oil, gas and coal wasn’t contained.”

Scientists elsewhere were aware before Exxon that it was happening as far back as the 1930′s. Exxon maintains a staff that became aware of this thinking who convinced the money men to finance research within Exxon. (Incidentally, in that reference a detailed timeline of oil and coal burning is included. It is produced by the American Institute of Physics) Thus Exxon was among the first to do measurements and quantification on which today’s science is built.

Their research was widely disseminated in Exxon, in particular a 46 page memo to 15 executives and managers November 12, 1982, with a cover letter by Marvin B. Glasser that said, “the CO2 ‘Greenhouse Effect’ which is receiving increased attention in both the scientific and popular press is an emerging environmental issue” and “The material has been given wide circulation to Exxon management and is intended to familiarize Exxon personnel with the subject.” He also warned, “It should be restricted to Exxon personnel and not distributed externally.”

Exxon has never publically agreed with climate warming. There wasn’t much said until NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming in 1988. By this time Exxon gave the world the impression the science was controversial. Those who had studied the matter agreed by the next year to create the Global Climate Coalition to “present the views of the industry on the global warming debate.” In other words, to sow confusion.

How much has Exxon spent to sow confusion? One source shows nearly $31 million from 1998 to 2014.

Exxon’s peers knew, too. The American Petroleum Institute (API) and the nation’s oil companies set up an organization to monitor and share climate research between 1979 and 1982, about the same time Exxon was doing its research. Other companies were Mobil, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio as well as Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil. So Exxon was a leader, not out there alone. API at first used the name the Carbon Dioxide and Climate Task Force, but changed its name to Climate and Energy Task Force in 1980. It is clear they were thinking the oil industry would have to bare some of the responsibility, and that it would affect their operations. By 1988 API had started a campaign to convince the American public and lawmakers that climate science was too tenuous for the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol treaty. See the reference article for more details.

Exxon is not alone in funding climate change denial. A study by Justin Farrell, a professor at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, has published results from an analysis of “all known organizations and individuals promoting contrarian viewpoints, as well as the entirety of all written and verbal texts about climate change from 1993 – 2013 from every organization, three major news outlets [the New York Times, the Washington Times, and USA Today], all US presidents, and every occurrence on the floor of the US Congress.” The Koch brothers were linked in also. This was achieved by machine-reading more than 39 million words.

In “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein says, “According to one recent study … what sociologist Robert Brulle the sociologist, calls the ‘climate change counter-movement’ are collectively pulling in more than $900 million per year for their work on a variety of right-wind causes, most of it in the form of dark money funds from conservatives foundations that cannot be fully traced.”

So let’s see where things are today. New York State and California are engaged in legal action to find out what Exxon knew. Previous knowledge has been on the basis of a study by Inside Climate News. New York has filed an injunction seeking documents covering four decades of research and internal communications concerning climate change plus advertising materials. More recently, the Maryland State Attorney General has suggested his office may investigate, too.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers reply includes: “We unequivocally reject allegations that ExxonMobil suppressed climate change research contained in media reports that are inaccurate distortions of ExxonMobil’s nearly 40-year history of climate research that was conducted publicly in conjunction with the Department of Energy, academics and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Or, more succinctly, “We never done nothin.’”

In an online petition drive, in public statements and behind the scenes, environmental advocates and their political allies are pressing federal and state authorities to launch investigations, subpoenas or prosecutions to pin down what Exxon knew and when. The oil giant’s critics say Exxon might be held liable either for failing to disclose the risks to shareholders and financial regulators, or for manufacturing doubt to deceive people about the science of climate change.

New York state’s comptroller and four other major ExxonMobil shareholders asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to force the oil producer to include a climate change resolution in its annual shareholder proxy, according to a filing seen by Reuters. Exxon is digging in against the effort and has succeeded with holding stockholders uninformed up to this point. And it is fighting a move by investors holding more than $3.4 trillion who have decided to sell their stock.

Exxon has supported the American Geophysical Union, the largest of its kind. 60,000 members world-wide for years, now the question arises: Why is the AGU allowing its support when Exxon is supporting Climate Denial, too? Over 100 members of AGU have written a letter to drop Exxon as a sponsor of its annual earth science conference.

One of the front line actions now is to get proper education on climate change. In recent years there have been many “academic freedom” bills in state legislatures which permit teaching creationist material as science, although creationism is contrary to the opinion of scientists. Now such bills include climate denial clauses as well. In the face of local opinion, teachers sometimes have a hard time keeping science consistent with expert opinion. Teachers need materials, in-service training, and support from both the education hierarchy and parents.

There is much less problem in universities, but the general public needs links to current events. The succession of increasingly hot years and sea rise which are observed, along with disappearance of glaciers and earlier appearance of migratory species in the spring, and earlier plant development need to be pointed out. Explanations of why there are changes in the rate of temperature rise and the continuing accumulation of ice at the South Pole are difficult to explain to persons without a thorough education in basic science.

Why do sincere people with no interest in the carbon industry accept this special pleading? At least one person, Katharine Hayhoe, has suggested that the real basis of both religious and political opposition to climate change is that a solution implies some sort of cooperative action among people. The American ideology of individualism is contrary to trying to have the community (i. e. government) act to effect a change. Ms. Hayhoe crosses boundaries, she is both an Evangelical and a scientist who accepts climate change.

There is an endless number of analyses. If you doubt this, do a Google search on “climate change denial religion.” In the face of overwhelming physical evidence, why do people still doubt? Catastrophic change is ahead. The answer must lie in deep psychology. As Carl Jung, a great figure in psychology, once said, “people can’t take too much reality.”

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