0

Imagine if Exxon had told the truth on climate change

A woman protests outside the building where the annual ExxonMobil shareholders’ meeting is held in Dallas. Photograph: LM Otero/AP

A woman protests outside the building where the annual ExxonMobil shareholders’ meeting is held in Dallas. Photograph: LM Otero/AP

Like all proper scandals, the #Exxonknew revelations have begun to spin off new dramas and lines of inquiry. Presidential candidates have begun to call for Department of Justice investigations, and company spokesmen have begun to dig themselves deeper into the inevitable holes as they try to excuse the inexcusable.

As the latest expose instalment from those hopeless radicals at the Los Angeles Times clearly shows, Exxon made a conscious decision to adopt what a company public affairs officer called “the Exxon position.” It was simple: “Emphasise the uncertainty.” Even though they knew there was none.

Just think what might have happened differently if, in August of 1988, the “Exxon position” had been “tell the truth”.

That was a few months after Nasa scientist James Hansen had told Congress the planet was heating and humans were the cause; it was amid the hottest American summer recorded to that point, with the Mississippi running so low that barges were stranded and the heat so bad that corn was withering in the fields. Imagine, amid all that, Exxon scientists had simply said: “Everything we know says Hansen is right; the planet’s in serious trouble.”

No one would, at that point, have blamed Exxon for causing the trouble — instead it would have been hailed for its forthrightness. It could have begun the task of finding alternatives to hydrocarbons, and the world could have done the same thing. This would not have been an easy job: the world was utterly dependent on coal, gas and oil. But it would have become our planet’s single-minded job. With Exxon — largest company on Earth, heir to the original oil baron, with tentacles reaching around the world — vouching for the science, there is no way we would have wasted 25 years in fruitless argument.

Students would not have — as we speak — to be occupying administration buildings from Tasmania to Cambridge, because the fossil fuel companies would long since have become energy companies, and divesting from them would not be necessary.

More urgently, rapid development of renewables might well have kept half of Delhi’s children — 2.5 million children — from developing irreversible lung damage.

The rapid spread of decentralised renewable technology might have kept oil and gas barons like the Koch Brothers from becoming, taken together, the richest man on Earth, and purchasing America’s democracy.

Continue reading here.

Share

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.