The Wall Street Journal, Climate Change Denial, and the Galileo Gambit

Here’s an editorial at the Huffington Post which I think is worth reading. Well worth reading. In fact, it’s worthwhile getting others to read it.

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17 responses to “The Wall Street Journal, Climate Change Denial, and the Galileo Gambit

  1. The first amendment never gave anyone the right to lie and without suffering the consequences.

    One of the big problems with the oil companies is that they have been willfully throwing up confusion in the public forum while they have always acknowledged climate change as an issue when discussing with scientists. Ironically, that tends to get BP off the hook because they climate change while simultaneously reducing their maintenance budgets and drilling without adequate safeguards for spills.

  2. How is this not treason?

    We wrestle with notions of ethical business behavior and we demand that industries be “held accountable”. That’s polite language that lets them off the hook. They and we knew carbon emissions cause global warming, and in the last decade, they and we knew that continued emissions would endanger the very survival of humans. And now we know we will exceed safe limits of 2 degrees C – And by ignoring all this science in order to make quarterly profits for shareholders – where a corporate structure means no accountability – why is this not considered treason against our species? They and we have sabotaged the future of children and all future generations. They do it for money, we do it for comfort, they promote the business, we buy-in, they push the continued use of carbon fuel, they even work to suppress competitive clean energy sources. Even if we are complicit, how is this not treason?
    Could it be instead that this is not such a well-defined criminal act? Let see – energy is so crucial to our civilization – and we all want as much as we can use and more. Gradually, we have discovered the carbon form of energy is harmful, killing us, full certainty. Like tobacco to a cancer patient, sugar to a diabetic, lead in drinking water…. at some moment we all know it is harmful to humans living now, and harmful to humans living in the future. Pretending to be ignorant is a preferred defense. But after that lie is worn out, then the actions become purely immoral.
    Long ago, the preferred act for the carbon fuel industry would have been to warn of the harm – they and we could have declared danger in 1988 at the latest – but even in the 1960’s Presidential science reports could have set down policy. Part of the cost of doing business in carbon fuels has been to deceive. To fully purchase government influence – a million dollars per congressman is chump change to 44 billion in revenue. Each of the few mass media organizations is openly influenced by the generous purchase of advertising. Easy. Why is this conspiracy to continue poising our future allowed to continue? At some time we had a moral conversions from using easy cheap energy, into using easy, cheap and dangerous energy. After that moment, we can charge complicity to anyone selling it, anyone using it. Everyone.seems to share. Gas is so easy to pump and buy… but by putting about a pound of CO2 into the air for every mile a car moves, it is astoundingly toxic to the globe. Every bit of CO2 will stay forever – call it a thousand years. We are long past the tolerance time. We can describe the corrupt system to stop it, but blaming individuals is pointless. But disempowering carbon corporations and carbon wealth is necessary to stop it. (Instead we seem locked into a foolish survival scheme where only those with wealth will survive – this will work only short time – in the full scheme, this is not very smart)
    Clearly all the carbon fuel industries should be nationalized, assets frozen. Now. Today. Any further carbon wealth halted. And future carbon fuel usage should be regulated only for manufacturing and deploying clean energy or adapting to changes. The is so painful and radical that it will be shouted down – but the tactic of forcing the unacceptable solution is the last gasp tactic of a toxic industry that has lost all morality. Corporate ownership has failed, the corporation as an individual has committed treason against humans and should be terminated. Carbon fuel corporations should be immediately converted to public utilities.
    I fully realize this is not likely to happen any time soon. But the industry fears the extreme actions like frozen carbon assets. At sometime very soon, seized assets is a more reasonable solution. That is if we want to extend our survival. We cannot prevent destabilized heating – we can only extend our survival.
    Indeed, in our indulgence, we may want to keep the good life going by continuing to burn carbon fuels… I don’t think we want to do that, but the industry will likely spend lots to manipulate our emotions and keep their revenue flowing.
    We should just know that halting combustion is only way to extend life right now. Bill Gates want us to invent our way out of this mess. To promote other ways of survival without first stopping the most dangerous act is deluded, unscientific, and harmful to our future. Promoting magical thinking is a crime and it should be better defined. They and we know it. Civilization should set down laws to secure our survival.

    • I’m not sure nationalizing fossil fuel companies would have quite the impact you expect. After all, the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves are already controlled by nationalized oil companies (e.g. Saudi Aramco and its ilk).

    • In the United States it’s not treason because the Constitution gives a very, very narrow definition of treason. This was done in response to widespread abuse of extremely broad definitions of treason in various European monarchies. It “shall consist only in levying War against them [the states], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

  3. The tobacco industry and drug companies were held accountable because their products did direct harm to consumers. Enron was in trouble because they inflicted direct financial harm to their customers. VW diesel cars were exposing owners to undisclosed levels of pollutants, which have a direct physical effect on owners.

    But Exxon Mobil makes gasoline, which works exactly as promised. It burns hot and makes your car go. You get a gallon of gas when you pay for a gallon of gas at the pump. We know exactly how many molecules of O2 get attached to every carbon atom when that gas is burned in our engines. We have government agencies that monitor all these things and supposedly regulate them to promote public safety.

    I really don’t see a very strong parallel between Big Tobacco et al and Exxon. And I don’t think it is their product which is the problem. It is their program of dishonest propaganda which should be prosecuted. We don’t have laws that apply to that, I don’t believe, but the ICC does.

    • “But Philip Morris makes cigarettes, which work exactly as promised. They burn hot and make your lungs go. You get a pack of cigarettes when you pay for a pack of cigarettes at the store. We know exactly how many molecules of nicotine get attached to our lungs. We have government agencies that monitor all these things and supposedly regulate them to promote public safety.”

      I guess their product isn’t the problem if you just ignore all of the unintended consequences – cancer, global warming, etc.

  4. Yes, I’d like to prosecute them, but only for deliberately muddying the waters when they knew the truth. Until we make laws governing ghg emissions, then the fault is all ours.
    Of course we also need to fix our current version of democracy which allows for the purchase of politicians by the wealthy.

  5. Reblogged this on “Don’t look now” (http://ow.ly/101Yv5 ) and commented:

    In the UK, the owner of the WSJ, Rupert Murdoch, owns a large proportion of the media. Apparently, “George Osborne met Rupert Murdoch twice before imposing BBC cuts”(http://ow.ly/101VOV ).

    But I haven’t trusted the BBC on climate since they cancelled Planet Relief in 2007 (http://ow.ly/101VGa). One complaint, “BBC promotes growth & ignores climate dangers” (http://ow.ly/101W4j )

    (P.S. Apologies for the previous mistakes.)

  6. Lars Karlsson

    I agree, Gingerbaker. In the case of tobacco, it was quite clear who was the perpetrator (tobacco industry) and who were the victims (consumers getting cancer or cardiovascular diseases, and indirectly those paying for health care). In the case of fossil fuels, it is not so clear. If I drive a car, does that make me a victim or a perpetrator?

    • Timely discovery of a post on Ethics and Climate “Sociologist Robert Brulle Explains How America has been Duped on Climate Change”

      http://ethicsandclimate.org/2016/01/21/sociologist-brulle-explains-how-america-has-been-duped-on-climate-change/

      And we should remember that the last time Exxon put out a budget line item for opinion manipulation – it was for $400 million – after that funding went through foundations. Just that it is not a minor effort. Indeed all corporations have a fiduciary duty to maximize profits. If a board of directors failed to do so, they would be removed.

      [Response: I’m sick of talk about the “fiduciary duty” to maximize profits. It’s not a duty, it’s just institutionalized greed. Corporations and even laws call it a duty to try to re-define a sin as a virtue.

      It’s high time society put a stop to this, one of the worst abuses of language we have.]

      • This supposed ‘fiduciary duty’ has a surprisingly recent pedigree, and a surprisingly flimsy legal foundation. My perception is that its widespread and uncritical acceptance today is in large part due to the ‘Big Lie’ technique of repetitious and forceful assertion of that which proponents wish to establish as a norm.

        Or, in plainer words, some ideologues have said it so much that most of us believe it simply because we have heard it so often.

        US case law summarized:

        http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2012/05/case-law-on-the-fiduciary-duty-of-directors-to-maximize-the-wealth-of-corporate-shareholders.html

      • Yeah, the “fiduciary duty” excuse is an easy target for reduction to absurdity. One need only imagine the board of directors of an incorporated human trafficking cartel.

        Would the board not have the duty to corrupt law enforcement in order to maximize profits? If that board of directors failed to do so, they would be removed, right?

        If BoDs are indeed driven by no imperatives other than growth and profit (as often seems the case), it is an obvious reason why they need to be restrained by regulation.

    • “If I drive a car, does that make me a victim or a perpetrator?”

      One of life’s sad truths is that those categories are not mutually exclusive.

  7. In the early 1970’s, I was a Chem. Engineering student in a program where 95% of the grads went to work for oil companies. We were expected to know the chemistry and physics of greenhouse gas driven global warming, ozone depletion by halogenated hydrocarbons, and smog formation from auto exhaust in great detail. We had to learn more of that stuff than the folks in “Chemistry for Science Majors” were expected to know. However, President Johnson had already said that global warming was our largest problem on national TV.

    In 1986, the Saudi Oil Minister told the world that pumping all the known oil reserves would cause serious problems with global warming. At that time, US oil companies still had strong ties to OPEC based oil suppliers. They all knew about global warming. They all knew their product caused damage. However, the US could not believe that oil producing nations wanted nuclear reactors to reduce their oil consumption. The US could not conceive of thinking, and planning 50 years or 100 years into the future.

    When the first IPCC report come out, I was working for the guy that had designed some of the largest oil refineries in the world. We thought IPCC had understated the issues. In 1994, I was working on US DOE projects, and many of my DOE clients thought that IPCC had overstated the issues.

    Auto companies had bought up mass transit systems, and converted them to buses. Auto racing was big business. Fixing cars, was big business, and a common hobby. Trucking and truckers were part of the US folk culture.

    In many ways, we accepted the idea that, “What is good for GM is good for America!” Plenty of cheap oil was good for GM. People drove to their vacation destination. Anybody that wanted to raise the price of oil was demonized by the folks that owned resorts, hotels, and casinos. Heck, teh firm I worked for had divisions that built bridges and highways, oil refineries, and oil pipelines Everybody had their hand out for oil money.

    Yes oil lied, but they had plenty of help. And, they had an uncritical audience, that wanted cheap gas for their cars and trucks. People that smoked did not want to hear the truth about tobacco. People that are addicted to cheap oil did not want to hear the truth about oil.

    However, democracies need decisions based on scientific truth. The truth about tobacco raises productivity while reducing healthcare cost. Lies about fossil fuel have cost us greatly. Our only salvation is in the truth, and action.

  8. tamino, maximizing shareholder return is a duty in the sense that it’s your job as a CEO or corporate director. But legally, “duty to maximize shareholder return” is modified to “duty to maximize shareholder return in any legal and ethically acceptable fashion.” It’s leaving out the last phrase that’s killing us.

    Corporations are profit-maximizing machines, no more, no less. If they can make more money feeding the starving millions, they’ll do that. If they can make more money gassing the starving millions, they’ll do THAT. It’s up to governments to constrain what they can and can’t do. The idea of just letting corporations do whatever they hell they want, as in anarcho-capitalism, is just insane. It’s like letting giant predators the size of Godzilla do whatever they want. Properly harnessed, Godzilla might be a boon to construction work, or a great tourist attraction, but I’m sure the Japanese government doesn’t want to just let him run wild in Tokyo.