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General News    H3'ed 12/29/15

Not Just Exxon: The Entire Oil and Gas Industry Knew The Truth About Climate Change 35 Years Ago.

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But this fleeting moment of concern and human conscience--just as it had it Exxon's case--soon yielded to the enticing reality of seven and eight-figure executive salaries:

[B]y the 1990s, it was clear that API had opted for a markedly different approach to the threat of climate change. It joined Exxon, other fossil fuel companies and major manufacturers in the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying group whose objective was to derail international efforts to curb heat-trapping emissions. In 1998, a year after the Kyoto Protocol was adopted by countries to cut fossil fuel emissions, API crafted a campaign to convince the American public and lawmakers that climate science was too tenuous for the United States to ratify the treaty.

Nelson acknowledges that in the 1980's API moved abruptly away from science-based analysis of the climatic impact of the fossil fuel industry and began taking a more "political" view towards protecting its interests:

"They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists," he said. "They weren't focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry's impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry. That's not meant as a criticism. It's just a fact of life."

Nelson excuses this shift by blaming it on the growing influence of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is something akin to the Tobacco industry blaming its misleading propaganda on the efforts of the FDA to regulate tobacco. The campaign of manufactured disinformation and doubt that ensued was deliberate, well-planned, and well-financed, and continues to this day. The following is an excerpt from the API's Action Plan memorandum of the API, 1998, setting forth the industry's goals to sow public doubt in American media about something they had been well aware of for nearly twenty years:


A majority of the American public, including industry leadership, recognizes that significant uncertainties exist in climate science, and therefore raises questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change.

Progress will be measured toward the goal...[.]

Victory Will Be Achieved When
  • Average citizens "understand" (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the "conventional wisdom"
  • Media "understands" (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science
  • Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current "conventional wisdom"
  • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy
  • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extent science appears to be out of touch with reality.

Interestingly, the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) was identified as a "potential fund allocator" for the API's initiative, which illustrates how long ALEC has been a willing tool of corporate malfeasance. In 2000 the group found a natural ally in George W. Bush, whose campaign professions of sincere interest in reducing global carbon emissions were swiftly reversed once he obtained access to the Oval Office. Bush's rejection of the Kyoto treaty, well documented and attested to by then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in Ron Suskind's, "The Price of Loyalty," was a classic corporate-inspired betrayal of the environment:

API and GCC were victorious when George W. Bush pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto agreement. A June 2001 briefing memorandum records a top State Department official thanking the GCC because Bush "rejected the Kyoto Protocol in part, based on input from you."

Lobbyists for API found a cozy sinecure in the Bush/Cheney Administration. The article describes API lobbyist Philip Cooney, chief of staff on Bush's Council for Environmental Quality, who was discovered in 2005 to have rewritten federal research papers to sow doubts about climate change. Cooney resigned that year and went to work for Exxon/Mobil. The ICN investigation also documents the efforts of one Robert Campion, a senior scientist at Exxon and a member of the API task force, who was highly influential (and effective) early on in tamping down API's emphasis on the effects and impact of continued, increasing CO2 emissions. An example of his efforts to dissuade a more aggressive agenda on CO2 by API is grimly ironic, in a black comedic sense:

Campion [urged a more limited agenda on CO2 emissions] because the Energy Department and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) were expected to issue a report "momentarily" based on an April 1979 climate symposium that "concluded no catastrophic hazards would be associated with the CO2 buildup over the next 100 years and that society can cope readily with whatever problems ensue."

(Eventually published in October 1980, the AAAS report offered more sobering forecasts than Campion had expected, describing risks to nearly every facet of life on Earth and concluding catastrophes could be avoided only if timely steps were taken to address climate change.)

Other writings by Campion from 1979unearthed by the ICN investigation document him predicting that real-world effects of climate change would begin to manifest themselves after the year 2000:

He estimated that the effects would be felt after 2000, after a cyclical cooling period had passed. Because a cyclical warming trend was then expected post 2000, it would intensify climate change, "worsening the effect," he wrote.

Of course we know the end result of Exxon's and the API's efforts, begun all those 35 years ago. We're seeing them on the East Coast as we watch in benumbed silence while the warmest Christmas season in recorded memory unfolds around us, closing out the hottest year in recorded history, and brought on by the most severe EL Nino ever observed. Meanwhile, their efforts to delay action on reduction of C02 emissions continue to find support in a Republican Party thoroughly beholden to the industry for its very existence. The few oil and gas company scientists who were willing to talk to ICN about their participation in the API's task force ( including API's President who now claims he doesn't even remember it) continue to insist that there is still doubt about the "consensus" of the scientific community:

Charles DiBona served as president of API from 1979 to 1997, when the organization shifted its approach on climate change from following the science to intense lobbying to discredit it. DiBona said in a phone interview that he did not remember the climate task force. Like Nelson, he does not accept the prevailing scientific consensus that climate change is being driven by fossil fuel combustion. "I think there is some question about the broader scientific community. There's not much evidence that there is real consensus," DiBona said.

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