The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2010 (in the so-called Citizen’s United case) that corporations are people and that money is akin to speech. That ruling cleared the way for politicians to be bought and sold by the highest bidders. And now Exxon has taken its Supremely-granted personhood one step further. Exxon has proven that not only is it a person with all the foibles personhood entails. Exxon, it turns out, is a very special person, one deserving of a straight jacket, a lengthy prison sentence, or perhaps the death penalty. Exxon is a psychopath.
Bill McKibben reports in The Guardian that in the last three weeks, two separate teams of journalists – Pulitzer-prize winning reporters at the website Inside Climate News and another crew of Los Angeles Times veterans and up-and-comers at the Columbia Journalism School – have begun publishing the results of a pair of independent investigations into ExxonMobil.
McKibben wrote that they draw on completely different archives, leaked documents, interviews with ex-employees, yet they reach the same conclusion: “Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change many decades ago. Rather than alert the world, Exxon denied the factual science, obstructed the politics of global warming, funded junk science that pretended to refute what the company well knew.”
Exxon knew of Man-made Climate Warming in 1978
Exxon’s senior scientists, way back in 1978 (35 years ago), were telling Exxon executives that climate change was real. That it was caused by man. That it would raise global temperatures by 2-3C this century. This is exactly what is happening.
By the early 1980s, Exxon had confirmed these findings with shipborne CO2 measurements. Exxon outfitted a giant tanker with carbon sensors. Computer models showed precisely what was coming. One key scientist at Exxon Research wrote to his superiors that there was “unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”
Exxon Researcher: Nobody disputes Warming
By the early 1990s, Exxon researchers trolling for new exploration in the Arctic were well aware human-induced climate change was melting the poles. They even used this knowledge to plan their strategy. They reported the Beaufort Sea would soon be ice-free as much as five months a year instead of the historic two. Greenhouse gases are rising “due to the burning of fossil fuels,” a key Exxon researcher told an audience of engineers at a 1991 conference. “Nobody disputes this fact.”
Exxon disputes its own Facts
Exxon disputed this fact, but not inside its own doors. Inside, Exxon used their secret knowledge to buy oil leases in the areas they knew would melt. Outside the company, Exxon used its political and financial power to ensure no one took climate change seriously.
Exxon spreads The Big Lie
Exxon helped organize campaigns designed to instill doubt. Exxon borrowed tactics and personnel from the tobacco industry. Exxon funded “institutes” devoted to deny climate change outright. At the highest levels of government, Exon did all it could to spread its lies.
McGibben writes that to understand the evil of this treachery, “one must remember the timing. Global warming became a public topic in 1988, thanks to NASA scientist James Hansen. It took some 25years for us to begin to take the tepid actions we are now taking. If at any point, the largest oil company in the world and the most profitable business in history had informed us of the facts they knew, we could have gotten to work fixing or minimizing the problem.
Keeping the Lie Alive
Exxon helped organize the most consequential lie in human history, wrote McGibben. They kept that lie alive until now when we have passed the “point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures. . . No corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad.”
Exxon’s disservice to the World
Exxon had the unique power to change the course of world history for the better. It had the data. It had the science. It knew the problem it was promoting and yet lied straight up and made it infinitely worse. Exxon chose instead to change our course for the worse.
Worst Crime against Humanity in History
Blogger John Harrington writes in response to all the attempts to deny this overarching problem:
If denialists are to sustain the absurd conspiracy theory that all those who accept the science, every science academy, every climate data-gathering organization, every private science organization, every last scientist famous for something other than denying global warming (with the exception of Freeman Dyson) are just “socialists” bent on confiscating wealth, they’re now going to have to fold into this left-wing conspiracy Exxon’s own scientists, who, from the late ’70s onward, advised Exxon’s top management that climate change was real, anthropogenic, and of serious threat to humanity.
. . . Exxon’s deliberate campaign of lies is the worst crime against humanity in the history of humanity, worse than anything a government has ever done. ( I’m) only judging “worst” based only on the number of human lives we stand to lose, the millions who will be plunged into misery, and the serious risk, not at all negligible, that we have put the planet on a path that will make it impossible for humanity to survive.
Civilization can’t wink at this crime. We can’t let it go unpunished. Treat with contempt anyone who suggests otherwise.