Thursday, September 17, 2015

Climate Debate, Climate Pope, Climate Republicans, and Exxon Lies - The Week in Climate Change

This is a big week in climate change, though if you watched the Republican debate last night you would have missed it. Also, the Pope comes to the United States and talks about climate, while a new report shows how Exxon (now ExxonMobil) studied climate change as far back as the 1970s and then lied about it for decades. Here is a quick round up of climate news you definitely need to know.

Republican Debate

All one hundred (or 17, no 16, no 15) Republican candidates for the 2016 nomination engaged in a tag-team debate on CNN on September 16th. The early debate featured the lowest polling Republicans, minus one former Governor who couldn't garner enough support to be included even in this low-threshold affair, and another former Governor who decided he couldn't afford the airfare to California from Texas. The later debate featured everyone else.

In four and a half hours there was exactly one question related to climate change, answered by only three candidates, and totaling a breathtakingly inconsequential three minutes of air time. That in itself is why we need to have a Science Debate. Marco Rubio (Florida, which faces life-endangering sea level rise), Chris Christie (New Jersey, which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy just a few years ago), and Scott Walker (Wisconsin, whose warming temperatures will likely be offset by more extreme winter storms), all trotted out the new "denier talking point of the month." Having exhausted the "I am not a scientist" line (while ignoring what scientists say), the fossil fuel lobbyist/public relations approved official Republican denier line is now "The U.S. can't make any impact alone." Not only is this false, but they ignore the worldwide commitments being made by all other nations serious about dealing with man-made climate change. As always, the Republican party simply denies climate science (thus disqualifying them for the job they seek) and actively tries to sabotage international action that will have greater impacts.

Bizarrely for the guy who many think is the smartest of the bunch, Marco Rubio even made an ill-conceived joke about the severe drought being experienced by California - where the debate was being held. And in the shadow of a model of Ronald Reagan's Air Force One (the debate was held in the Reagan Presidential Library), Chris Christie mocked Ronald Reagan's own Secretary of State as being out-of-touch. All of them denied climate change and any attempt to act on it.

The Pope Brings a Climate Message to Congress and the United Nations

Pope Francis begins his whirlwind tour of the United States next week, with stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. The Pope shocked everyone a few months back by calling for an encyclical, which is Pope-speak for calling in experts on a particular issue to derive a policy. In June the results of that encyclical were released, with the Pope calling on all Catholics to acknowledge they have a moral obligation to steward God's gift to Man, i.e., the planet and the climate that lets us survive here. Other religions have also reiterated the moral obligation to take care of His creation.

Not surprisingly, the Republican party in the United States turned on the Pope, telling him he should "leave science to the scientists." These are the same Republican politicians who while saying "I am not a scientist" continue to tell scientists they don't know their own science. Breaking with corporate-Republican creed, there is a small group of Republicans who are honest about having to deal with the science. Perhaps eventually the rest will catch on that lying to your constituents won't stop sea level rise in Florida; droughts in Oklahoma, Texas, and California; or superstorms in New Jersey, New York, and New England. Until then, Republicans have disqualified themselves from positions requiring personal and professional responsibility.

Exxon Knew About Man-Made Climate Change in the 1970s

A new report compiled from thousands of Exxon documents and interviews with Exxon employees and others reveals that Exxon's own in-house research clearly demonstrated the role of fossil fuels in man-made climate change. And Exxon knew this all the way back in the 1970s. Concern about carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels had been raised decades earlier, and scientists were already studying the impacts. As the largest fossil fuel corporation on the planet, Exxon engaged in a research project in which its own scientists told them clearly and emphatically that fossil fuels were causing the climate to warm. Everyone at Exxon knew this, including senior management and CEO.

Rather than address the issue, Exxon buried it. They killed funding for the research and began a decades long campaign to deny man-made climate change. A series of industry front groups posing as "research organizations," many with intentionally deceptive names, was set up to "manufacture doubt." This was the same technique used by tobacco companies to deny smoking caused cancer. That network of lobbyists and front groups expanded to include other denial networks begun by the Koch brothers, libertarian and conservative lobbyists, and other anti-science organizations. Collusion among lobbyists, the media, and politicians became the norm

This page will have more about what Exxon (now ExxonMobil) knew in future posts. From my own personal knowledge I can say that Exxon scientists then, and now, continue to do good science and provide scientific information to the company and its management. Those scientists have made it clear that the science is unequivocal, and that ExxonMobil must find more sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel. Denial of the science falls solely on ExxonMobil management and the denial lobbyists they support.