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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/18/19

Our Climate Emergency was no Accident: Big Oil knew

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From Other Words

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As far back as 1982, fossil fuel executives knew they were trading a few decades of profits for the entire future of the planet.

Deepwater Horizon fire seen by US Coast Guard helicopter
Deepwater Horizon fire seen by US Coast Guard helicopter
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org))
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Similarly, ExxonMobil scientists made startlingly accurate predictions about climate change as early as 1982 and then spent millions of dollars on a misinformation campaign to sow public doubt about climate change.

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Years ago, tobacco companies discovered the link between their products and lung cancer. Did they warn their customers? No -- they denied the link entirely, misleading the public for decades while killing their customers.

Similarly, ExxonMobil scientists made startlingly accurate predictions about climate change as early as 1982 -- and then spent millions of dollars on a misinformation campaign to sow public doubt about climate change.

They didn't need to convince the public that the climate crisis wasn't happening. They just had to muddy the waters enough to prevent us from doing anything.

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They provoked uncertainty: Maybe the climate crisis isn't happening. And even if it is, maybe it's not caused by humans burning fossil fuels. (Of course, it is happening and it is caused by humans.)

The result was inaction.

If we aren't even sure that a human-caused climate crisis is afoot, why should we wean ourselves off of fossil fuels? It would be highly inconvenient and very expensive to go to all of that trouble unless we're absolutely certain that we need to.

After all, the argument went, "only" 97 percent of scientists believe that human are causing a climate crisis.

I'm a scientist. Let me tell you, when 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, the evidence must be overwhelming.

Scientists are trained to critique and argue with one another. We make our careers by pulling apart other scientists' theories and exposing the flaws in them and then supplanting them with better theories of our own.

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You couldn't get 97 percent of scientists to agree that puppies are cute or chocolate is delicious. What about other 3 percent? You can always find one or two nutty so-called scientists with inaccurate, fringy theories out there. There's probably a scientist somewhere attempting to publish a study asserting that Bigfoot exists -- or that climate change isn't happening.

Science is a community endeavor in which we try to collectively discover and advance the truth. The goal is that the community as a whole achieves a consensus or near-consensus that is as accurate as possible.

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Jill Richardson is the proprietor of the blog La Vida Locavore. She writes on food policy issues and she is currently working on her first book, due out in 2009.

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