Executives at ExxonMobil knew the risks to the environment from CO2. Yet they misled the public, calling the science into question. The fact we knew it all along does not dilute the pain of the betrayal.
On my eighteenth birthday I hooked up with my girlfriend at a local tennis tournament. We weren’t a good match (ha!). For years a worm in my belly had been whispering that we shouldn't have been together, but I’d doggedly ignored its voice.
I hadn’t been there two minutes when she took off somewhere — I assumed to retrieve my gift. Half an hour later she had not returned and I began to think something was up. Eventually, I wandered home alone, monumentally miffed.
It was a typical Australian summer’s day, so I took the swamp route. Waterbirds speared the grass about my feet, gobbling up the deadly spiders as they thronged fang-first for my flesh. Falcons swept from the sky, clearing away the snakes, while mosquitoes tattooed my neck with my own blood.
Aah, the peace and harmony of nature…
Movement in the undergrowth caught my eye. Twinned shapes twisted and rolled. I thought for a moment of the geese that nested in those parts and I took a silent step sideways to improve the view.
Lo and behold, there was my truant sweetheart wrapped in another’s embrace. The cad was one of my teachers and, evidently, one of hers. She seemed to be learning quite a lot.
‘Happy birthday, AJ!’ she called.
Well, okay, she wasn’t quite that callous. To this day I don’t think she noticed that I noticed.
Fair enough. She was busy.
And so, just as truth met reality between sets of the Under 18s round robin, we meet the theme of this article. Yeah, we shouldn’t have been together. The fact I knew it did nothing to dilute the pain.
Inside Climate News has revealed that executives at ExxonMobil deliberately misled the public about the perils of CO2 emissions. Financial records, emails and the research of the company’s own scientists tell a sorry tale of what they knew and how it differed from what they told us.
The New York Attorney-General’s Office has opened an investigation and prosecution is expected to follow under the Martin Act. To gain a conviction the state must prove a company deceived the public by misrepresenting or omitting a material fact in the offering of securities.
It’s clear that Exxon’s scientists briefed executives on the risks of CO2 and that they chose to spread disinformation in response. For instance, one memo admits that ‘fossil fuels contribute most of the CO2’ causing global warming, while another declares that the company would ‘emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions’ in public. Between 1998 and 2005 the company contributed around $16 million to organizations committed to creating the impression of scientific debate where there was none.
Of course, we knew it all along. The scientists were right about tobacco and they’re right about CO2 emissions. That we can’t trust vested interests is hardly revelatory, but that doesn’t make Exxon’s betrayal easier to accept.
We may be living with the ramifications of twenty-five years of manufactured doubt for years to come. Disturbingly, GOP candidates for President, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, all spout misinformation produced by ExxonMobil as if it were fact.
That candidates should disregard evidence for an ideological position does not bode well. Just imagine President Trumpet galumphing up to COP21 to bluster that this global-warming malarkey is nothin’ but a hoax…
Lord, save us.