— The Erimtan Angle —

The reporter Avaneesh Pandey declares that “ExxonMobil — one of the world’s largest oil companies — was not only aware of the links between fossil fuels and global warming [(i)n the early 1980s], it was also actively trying to promote climate change denial among the general public”.[1]  Lest you’d forgotten, ExxonMobil is the company behind Alaska’s largest oil spill to date — “the tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, rupturing its hull and spilling nearly 11 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into a remote, scenic, and biologically productive body of water”, “[o]n March 24, 1989”.[2]  The tanker had been in the hands of ExxonMobil between 1986 and 1989.

The Union of Concerned Scientist (UCS) published The Climate Deception Dossiers in July 2015, which is the basis of Pandey’s IBT report. The Dossiers’ lead authors are Kathy Mulvey and Seth Shulman and they categorically state that “the fossil fuel industry and policy makers learned that the climate is changing and that emissions from burning fossil fuels are the cause” “more than two decades” ago.[3]  Pandey focuses on Leonard Bernstein, whom he calls a “former climate scientist at Exxon, who also headed the science and technology advisory committee of the Global Climate Coalition — an American lobbying group that opposed action to reduce emissions”. Pandey quotes an internal memo written by Bernstein saying that “Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia . . . This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70 percent carbon dioxide”.[4]  In fact, looking at the memo, not coincidentally entitled Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer published on 21 December 1995, is a sobering experience. Bernstein starts off like this: “[s]ince the beginning of the industrial revolution, human activities have increased the atmospheric concentration ofCO2 by more than 25%. Atmospheric concentrations of other greenhouse gases have also risen. Over the past 120 years, global average temperature has risen by 0.3 – 0.6°C. Since the Greenhouse Effect can be used to relate atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to global average temperature, claims have been made that at least part of the temperature rise experienced to date is due to human activities, and that the projected future increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (as the result of human activities) will lead to even larger increases in future temperature. Additionally, it is claimed that these increases in temperature will lead to an array of climate changes (rainfall pattems, storm frequency and intensity, etc.) that could have severe environmental and economic impacts”.[5]  Today in the 21st century, the public-at-large has gotten used to such sentences, yet climate denial persists. As for Bernstein, following the just-quoted preamble, he went in for the kill and off-handedly stated that the “scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”.[6]

It might be helpful to repeat Leonard S. Bernstein’s words one more time, but this time more slowly: the “scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”. In spite of these clear words, as related by Avaneesh Pandey, “the public stance of ExxonMobil — a company that currently operates in over 20 countries — was, until recently, one of climate change skepticism. According to an earlier report by UCS, the company spent nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to fund advocacy organizations that raised doubts over climate change. Although the company pledged in 2008 to stop funding groups that promote climate change denial, as recently as 2012, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, attempted to downplay the threat posed by climate change”.[7]  In other words, the deeds and actions of the men behind such companies like Exxon et al. could be summarized with the phrase “Profits before Planet” or “Après moi, le déluge”. After all, in 2012, the CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson stated publicly at the Council on Foreign Relations that he is “not disputing that increasing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It’ll have a warming impact. How large it is, is what is very hard for anyone to predict. We [humans] have spent our entire existence adapting, ok? So we will adapt to this”.[8]

In contrast to Tillerson’s apparent carelessness, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, an adviser to the German government and Pope Francis, said the following on Friday, 10 July 2015: “In the end it is a moral decision. Do you want to be part of the generation that screwed up the planet for the next 1,000 years? I don’t think we should make that decision . . . We need a global social movement and it is already happening”.[9]  Perhaps so, or maybe it is just a little bit too late now . . .

[1] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers” IBT (09 July 2015). http://www.ibtimes.com/exxonmobil-climate-change-new-documents-reveal-oil-giant-knew-risks-continued-fund-2000868.

[2] “Exxon Valdez Oil Spill” NOAA Office for Response and Restoration (s.d.). http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/oil-and-chemical-spills/significant-incidents/exxon-valdez-oil-spill.

[3] Kathy Mulvey and Seth Shulman, The Climate Deception Dossiers (July 2015). http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/fight-misinformation/climate-deception-dossiers-fossil-fuel-industry-memos#.VaEObpUVjpA.

[4] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers”.

[5] Leonard Bernstein, Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer (21 Dec 1995). http://s3.amazonaws.com/nytdocs/docs/122/122.pdf.

[6] Leonard Bernstein, Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer.

[7] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers”.

[8] Avaneesh Pandey, “1980s, ExxonMobil And Climate Change: New Documents Reveal Oil Giant Knew Risks But Continued To Fund Deniers”.

[9] Damian Carrington, “Fossil fuel industry must ‘implode’ to avoid climate disaster, says top scientist” The Guardian (10 July 2015). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/10/fossil-fuel-industry-must-implode-to-avoid-climate-disaster-says-top-scientist?CMP=share_btn_link.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: