Look Around: The Costs of Not Acting on Climate Are Adding Up Fast

From major hurricanes and flooding to droughts and fires, the refusal to accept the science of global warming is getting very expensive.

— by Common Dreams staff

The La Tuna fire that raged in Los Angeles over the weekend was the largest ever seen in the city. Wildfires in California have been tied to the effects of climate change. (Photo: @climatesignals/Twitter)

As Houston begins a recovery from Hurricane Harvey that is likely to last several years and cost many billions of dollars, the threat of extreme weather events around the country and the globe are illustrating the impact of climate change—and the damage being done by right-wing politicians including President Donald Trump who have refused to heed repeated warnings from scientists and other experts.

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben summed up the current state of affairs in a number of major U.S. cities, juxtaposed with Trump’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the 2016 Paris agreement on climate change:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned that the damage done to the country’s fourth-largest city could cost the government $180 billion—more than Hurricane Katrina cost in 2005. Aside from rebuilding costs, Houston-area residents may pay in other ways as well: as Common Dreams reported, the Center for Biological Diversity finds that “Oil refineries and chemical plants across the Texas Gulf coast released more than 1 million pounds of dangerous air pollutants in the week after Harvey struck.

On Monday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said there is an “increasing chance” that the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts” from the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Irma, and that “rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week.”

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, firefighters spent the weekend fighting what Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the largest fire in the history of” the city, covering about 7,000 acres and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. The wildfire, known as the La Tuna fire, broke out amid temperatures in the hundreds, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted that climate change is “fueling the frequency of wildfires” throughout the state in recent years.

As Andy Rowell, writing for Oil Change Internationalwrote in a column on Monday, Harvey’s damage in Houston and across the region “should also be a wake-up call to the climate-denying president that unless he acts on climate, there will be more Harveys.”

Rowell continues:

It is a wake-up call to the media to accurately report the disaster, including how climate change fuelled its intensity. It is also a wake-up call to the oil industry in so many, many ways.

On a national and international level it shows how our continuing dependence on fossil fuels will drive more extreme weather events. On a regional level it shows how ill-prepared the fossil fuel industry—and wider petrochemical industry—were to an event like this, despite decades of warnings.

Instead the fossil fuel industry’s complacency, malaise, self-regulation and capture of the political system are all to blame too. They have led to a system of peril.

Writing for Common Dreams on Monday, Randall Amster refers to it as the “new normal of destabilization”—a world in which climate-related disasters are happening more often and with escalating costs.

“In just the past week,” he writes, “we’ve seen record-breaking rainfall and wildfires plague parts of the United States. Globally, such extreme events appear to be increasing in frequency and magnitude. Droughts, floods, fires, and more can be seen as warning signs of impending ecosystem collapse at the planetary scale, with impacts felt in locales and regions around the world. While no single event may be able to draw a causal line directly from climate change, the cumulative correlation indicates escalating destabilization.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his cabinet remain reluctant to discuss the causes of disasters like Harvey as they strike. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt declared it was “misplaced” to discuss the storm’s link to climate change last week.

But that view was specifically countered by journalist Naomi Klein who said that it is in the midst of these climate-related disasters when the conversation about global warming and its impacts is most important.

“Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they’re playing out in real time—isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines,” argued Klein at The Intercept. “In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”


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Commentary: Ready for the Jawboning Presidency of Donald Trump?

Ralph Nader
by Ralph Nader

‘Want a New Year’s resolution?’ writes Nader. ‘Stay alert.’ There’s an erratic bully on his way to the White House.

All signs point to Donald Trump becoming a jawboning president without equal in American history. That is, jawboning by exerting rhetorical bombast focused on people, corporations and institutions, with massive media propulsion behind the very personal presidency he will establish. It will be a natural daily extension of his boundless, easily bruisable ego.

Trump has embraced these tactics as both a candidate and president-elect. He went after Carrier Corp. (a subsidiary of United Technologies) and Ford Motor Co. for shipping jobs to Mexico, after Boeing for charging too much for the new Air Force One and after Lockheed/Martin for over-pricing its F-35 fighter planes.

Previous presidents, knowing they have the “bully pulpit,” have generally been averse to the sort of jawboning that singles out specific firms and persons. President Harry Truman did take on a newspaper columnist who criticized his daughter, Margaret’s, singing skills. President John F. Kennedy went after U.S. Steel and referred to price hikes from the industry as “a wholly unjustifiable and irresponsible defiance of the public interest.”

But generally, presidents do not want to be seen as bullies, preferring one competitor against another or frittering their presidential authority by getting into petty squabbles. In the midst of more serious matters of state, jawboning can be a serious distraction that alienates larger numbers of people who may side with the assailed.

With Trump, none of this may matter. He has said repeatedly that he always slams back twenty times harder than anyone who slams him. He revels in his 20 million Twitter followers and loves how his tweets are carried by the mass media. That gives him a personal “mass media” which he controls, unfiltered by his antagonists in the press.

Rather than playing the “going-through-channels” game in Washington, he’ll want to throw his opponents off balance through personal attacks, including attacks on members of Congress and Governors. He is into the psychology of human frailties, vanities and occupational vulnerabilities. He knows that jawboning one person, firm or politician will put others on the defensive, and wondering whether they will be next, or putting foreign powers off balance because of his furious unpredictability.

The downside for Trump is that he will be so absorbed in jawboning and rebutting critics that he won’t be paying attention to what his underlings are doing until trouble rises to his level for decision. Jawboning can lead to complex consequences when it comes from the most powerful office in the county.

Should Trump use jawboning to give corporate gougers of workers, consumers, taxpayers and communities some pause and restraint, if not produce outright reversal of policy, he can become the champion of the underdogs and those bullied. He’s already said that drug prices are too high. If he believes that plain fact, can you guess what he’ll do next with his tweet on a specific company or a pay-or-die drug costing patients $100,000 or more a year?

Trump is known not to like detailed immersion into issues or detailed briefings by civil servants. He likes to set the pace, establish the new focus of the day and, above all, get even with anyone who stands up to or embarrasses him. He seems to behave as if rules and norms do not apply to him.

The strange Trump personality can radiate in many directions. Some results may be beneficial. Others – such as in the case of a stateless terror attack – may worsen a bad situation because of impulsive and violent over-reaction, leading to a worsening situation overseas and damage to the national interests, civil liberties and other constitutional rights of the American people.

Want a New Year’s resolution? Stay alert, keep up with your fellow citizens at the Congressional grassroots, stay informed on current events, and always be ready to foresee and forestall initiatives by politicians and corporatists that recklessly or greedily gobble up your tax dollars and undercut your health, safety and civil rights.


Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us” (a novel).

With Women and Doctors in Danger, House GOP Called upon to End Their ‘Witch Hunt’

‘We disgrace ourselves by allowing this misconduct to continue,’ 178 House Democrats say in letter to Speaker Paul Ryan

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

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The Democrats’ letter says the panel’s chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tx.) “has used her unilateral subpoena power to intimidate scientific researchers, doctors, clinics, health care providers, universities, and other entities.” (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Backed by key women’s health and civil liberties groups, 178 House Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to Republican Speaker Paul Ryan demanding he disband an anti-choice investigative panel that has been issuing subpoenas to abortion providers and medical researchers around the country.

The so-called “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” was created to look into fetal tissue research in the wake of last summer’s video smear campaign by anti-abortion activists that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials admitting to selling fetal body parts. In January, a grand jury empaneled to investigate those charges indicted the anti-abortion activists for fraud instead.

Women’s health and academic freedom advocates have long warned that the panel could have a chilling effect on both the provision of healthcare and university research.

But the panel’s “pattern of reckless disregard” has only escalated, according to House Democrats, with Republican members sending 36 subpoenas to researchers and healthcare providers, including a physician who was recently identified by name.

“From the beginning, Chair Marsha Blackburn has used her unilateral subpoena power to intimidate scientific researchers, doctors, clinics, health care providers, universities, and other entities,” reads the letter, which asks Ryan to respond in writing no later than June 6, 2016.

“On May 11, 2016, the majority reached a new low when it posted a press release identifying a doctor and his clinic by name,” the letter continues. “The press release’s hyperbolic rhetoric and misleading allegations pose a real danger to the doctor, the staff at the clinic, and the patients of the named clinic. These recent steps are completely outside the bounds of acceptable Congressional behavior. We disgrace ourselves by allowing this misconduct to continue.”

Indeed, the signatories—who include Reps. Keith Ellison (MN), Donna Edwards (MD), Ruben Gallego (AZ), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Barbara Lee (CA), and Maxine Waters (CA)—declare:

The most recent subpoenas are only the latest in a series of aggressive tactics that constitute a virtually unprecedented abuse of Congressional power, perhaps only matched by the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. To this day, the Panel still lacks credible evidence to support its case that any federal laws were broken. Yet the Chair and majority staff continue to harass individuals, researchers, clinics, and health care facilities, issuing a total of 36 subpoenas so far, often without reaching out to the subject of the subpoena to ask for voluntary compliance first or without giving subjects sufficient time to comply. Congress simply has no business “prosecuting” these unfounded allegations.

The danger posed by the Panel is real and serious. There is a long and undeniable history of violence against women’s health care clinics, physicians, and patients. As recently as November 27, 2015, a gunman murdered three people and injured nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, repeating the “baby parts” rhetoric pushed by the very members of Congress leading this investigation. Despite this horrific event, the same inflammatory language has been used repeatedly during Panel hearings, in communications with the press, and in other documents. The majority has also refused to take necessary steps to protect the names and privacy of those subject to the investigation. Indeed, some names and targets have already been publicly disclosed. We are deeply disappointed by the majority’s decision to continue down this road despite these well-known risks.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ACLU expressed support for the Democrats’ call.

“By issuing broad and baseless subpoenas,” said Louise Melling, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, “the Select Investigative Panel is not only wasting time and taxpayer money, but also violating the civil liberties of health care providers, medical researchers, and staff. This panel’s actions are clearly meant to harass and intimidate healthcare providers to prevent them from providing constitutionally protected care women need.”

And there are even more insidious goals in play, said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“By promoting falsehoods in order to close clinics, the Select Panel has been endangering women, students, researchers, and health care providers since it was formed,” Hogue said in a statement on Tuesday. “House Democrats are right to call on Speaker Ryan to disband this committee and put a stop to its taxpayer-funded witch hunt.”

The panel and its actions, she said, offer “one more example of the anti-choice GOP’s reckless disregard for safety of women and the priorities of most Americans.”


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How Anti-Choice Groups Push Message “Directly Into Women’s Phones”

New investigation by Rewire finds that ‘pregnancy crisis centers’ use geofencing to target women seeking abortions

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

phones_1
It’s a tactic that presents serious threats to women’s safety and privacy, as well as that of abortion providers and their staff, experts say. (Photo: Toshihiro Gamo/flickr/cc)

Anti-choice groups are using smartphone location tracking technology known as geofencing to target women seeking abortions with advertisements intended to mislead and intimidate, a new investigation by Rewire has revealed.

It’s a tactic that presents serious threats to women’s safety and privacy, as well as that of abortion providers and their staff—particularly as the technology allows anti-choice activists to target those they think will be most susceptible to their message.

“Far too many women already know the fear and intimidation of walking past protesters who are shouting and holding graphic posters outside an abortion clinic,” said Rewire‘s vice president of investigations and research Sharona Coutts, who authored the piece.

“This technology could provide those same protesters the opportunity to push their messages directly into women’s phones. It could even represent a physical threat, as once anti-choice organizations have a woman’s unique phone information, they can sell it to others, or use it to learn her name and address,” Coutts said.

The pioneer of the technology is marketing executive John Flynn, CEO of Copley Advertising, who developed the idea of using geofencing to target abortion seekers with anti-choice propaganda and pitched the plan to the pregnancy crisis center network RealOptions and the country’s largest evangelical adoption group, Bethany Christian Services.

Both organizations now use the technology, which allows them to send propaganda to women’s phones while they are in clinic waiting rooms.

Due to inadequate privacy laws in the U.S., these methods are legal. Rewire reports:

In terms of federal laws, many either don’t apply to Flynn’s conduct, or would allow it, according to Chris Hoofnagle, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law, and School of Information.

“Privacy law in the U.S. is technology- and context-dependent,” Hoofnagle said. “As an example, the medical information you relay to your physician is very highly protected, but if you go to a medical website and search for ‘HIV’ or ‘abortion,’ that information is not protected at all.”

In other words, it’s almost certain that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, would not apply.

Meanwhile, agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have no jurisdiction over nonprofits, while laws concerning user consent for apps that want to access their data and location are not enough to protect consumers. The only rule is that companies don’t lie about what information they are collecting—even if the truth is buried in the fine print,Rewire writes.

Cooper Quintin, a technologist at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Rewire that “the way we need to fight back against this is by blocking these things that are tracking who we are and where we are and what we’re looking at.”

“Tracking people and building up these databases of what they read online, where they go in the real world, linking their online behaviors to their offline purchases and real world behavior—these things can have real-world effects,” Quintin said, “and this is a horrific example of how this can affect people in a way that’s much more important than seeing some annoying or creepy ads that follow you around.”


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‘Great Day for Clean Energy’ as Supreme Court Gives Renewables a Boost

SCOTUS upholds rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand

— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

“Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable,” says Earthjustice. (Photo: Image Catalog/flickr/cc)

In a decision heralded as “great news for consumers and the environment,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand.

As Timothy Cama explains for The Hill, the court ruled (pdf) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “did not exceed the authority Congress gave it when it wrote its ‘demand response’ rule, mandating that electric utilities pay customers to reduce use during peak demand periods.”

At the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, senior attorney Allison Clements offered further background:

In 2011, FERC (the agency that regulates our country’s high voltage electric transmission grid) issued a landmark rule called Order 745, which set compensation for demand response in wholesale energy markets. Under the rule, grid operators are required to pay demand response participants the same rates for reducing energy use as those paid to power suppliers for producing energy from resources like coal, natural gas, and wind and solar power. FERC said the rule reflected the common sense view that “markets function most effectively when both supply and demand resources have appropriate opportunities to participate.”

With its ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially affirmed FERC’s position—and in turn, gave clean energy “a huge boost,” Clements said in a press statement. That’s because, she explained, “[i]f grid operators can count on fast-acting customer responses rather than plants that need more advanced notice to come online, they will have greater flexibility to meet electricity demand in situations when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.”

What’s more, said Sierra Club staff attorney Casey Roberts, “demand response programs make energy cheaper, ensure the reliability of the grid, and protect our air and water from fossil fuel pollution.”

As Politico points out:

The agency’s win is seen as a big loss for large “baseload” power sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, which have seen their profits decline over the last several years as electricity consumption has eased and renewables grew. Now they have to compete with industrial customers and others who will at times be paid at market rates to reduce their electricity use without having the costs of operating and maintaining a power plant themselves.

“This is a great day for clean energy and the health of a more affordable, stronger power grid,” added Earthjustice managing attorney of clean energy Jill Tauber on Monday. “Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable.”


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Supreme Court Takes Up ‘Fundamental Concept of Democracy’ in Voting Case

Supreme Court to decide if states should be required to draw legislative districts based on eligible voters or total populations

— by Nadia Prupis, CommonDreams staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the decades-old issue of “one person, one vote.” The main question is, what does “person” mean? (Photo: Jeff Kubina/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard a case on redistricting that could have a profound impact on voting and representation nationwide, as it considered the dynamics of the “one person, one vote” principle.

It’s a case that is poised to upend the U.S. voting process and, some critics warn, “make millions of people who live in our communities invisible in our democracy.”

In Evenwel v. Abbott (pdf), a case that emerged from a redistricting debate in Texas, the plaintiffs argue that states should only count eligible voters when drawing legislative district lines, rather than entire populations—an approach that would strengthen Republican strongholds in rural areas, while thinning out representation in urban centers, which have a higher proportion of non-eligible voters, such as non-citizen immigrants, children, and those disenfranchised through felony convictions.

“Everyone deserves fair and equal representation regardless of voting status or age. A ruling in favor of Evenwel would deny us fair representation in government and leave approximately 55 percent of Latinos unrepresented and affect many other groups—eroding Latinos’, Asian-Americans’, and African-Americans’ political power,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, President of Latino Victory Project. “We hope the Supreme Court will uphold the principle of one person, one vote. We should not create a second class of individuals who are subject to laws written by those who are not accountable or truly representative of the people.”

Because the decision in the case could impact nationwide redistricting rules, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs has the potential to “shift political power from larger areas that are more ethnically diverse and shift them more over to rural areas,” ACLU-Texas staff attorney Satinder Singh told Common Dreams on Monday.

That concern extends to numerous states with large minority populations.

“If changed, we will be moving from a standard that includes all people in the representation process to a scheme that excludes minors, undocumented veterans, and takes away the power given to communities to elect one of their own,” said Chuy Garcia, Illinois’ Cook County commissioner and populist icon.

In a city like Chicago, said Alderman Joe Moore, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could “make millions of people who live in our communities invisible in our democracy.”

The Supreme Court first imposed “one person, one vote” in 1964, when it ruled in Reynolds v Sims that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment requires state legislative districts to be comprised of roughly equal populations, though it gave individual states the power to decide on how they would determine “populations.” Most states leaned toward counting total residents, but a small handful of others only refer to voters.

But through decades of precedent, the court “never clarified what they mean by one person,” Singh said.

Justices have historically used “person” and “voters” interchangeably, he continued. “It’s a fundamental concept of democracy. Ultimately the question they’re going to be deciding is, what does this principle mean?”

It’s a question of representation that has been rejected by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a state federal district court, the U.S. Department of Justice, and ACLU-Texas, among other organizations. In fact, as Richard Hasen writes for SCOTUSblog, the case could be seen as nothing more than an attempt at “taking power away from the states and having the Supreme Court overturn precedent by imposing through judicial fiat a one-size-fits-all version of democratic theory unsupported by the text of the Constitution or historical practice.”

In fact, Hasen writes, the plaintiffs “are seeking to impose a standard which is not supported by the text of the Constitution.”

But the lawsuit has nonetheless climbed the judicial ladder. The plaintiffs, Titus County Republican Party chairperson Sue Evenwel and Montgomery County “party stalwart” Edward Pfenninger maintain that current standards weaken the influence of voices from areas with more registered voters, but smaller populations. Opponents, including Democratic Texas Rep. Marc Veasey and Mexican American Legislative Caucus voting rights counsel Joe Garza, say a redistricting policy that values registered voters over total residents would shut out large chunks of minorities, particularly those who are black or Latino.

“This legal challenge would do great harm to the state of Texas and potentially to other states that have very young populations and a significant number of noncitizen residents,” Veasey told McClatchy on Monday. “For Tarrant County in particular, this could mean that over 100,000 noncitizens would no longer be counted when assigning representation, according to a 2015 Migration Policy Institute report, and 27 percent of the county would be discounted due to be their age, according to the 2014 U.S. Census.”

Garza added, “We would lose seats in Texas—we would lose two districts in the Senate. It is an advantage for the white population.”

The implications of such a decision are far-reaching. In a state like Texas with a high population of Latino and minority voters, strengthening rural votes at their expense could lead to older, white constituents having “an outsize voice at the legislature,” Singh told Common Dreams. “A very small number of people would have a very large voice and would be able to decide things for a state with 30 million people.”

That “would certainly cause some representative issues and is a troubling notion of what democracy is,” he said.


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Big Oil Knew—Big Oil Lied—And Planet Earth Got Fried

— by Jon Queally, staff writer at Common Dreams
New report exposes why fossil fuel companies didn’t need the warning from the public scientific community to start a decades-long campaign of denial. They already knew their business model was a threat.

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A new report, The Climate Deception Dossiers, chronicles how Exxon and other major fossil fuel companies did not take action to disclose or reduce climate risks in the ensuing years, but instead actively misled the public and policymakers about them.

They knew. They lied. And the planet and its people are now paying the ultimate price.

It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry—the set of companies and corporate interests which profit most from the burning of coal, oil, and gas—have been the largest purveyors and funders of climate change denialism in the world.

Now, a new set of documents and a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) answers the age-old question always asked when it comes to crimes of corruption, cover-up, and moral defiance: What did they know and when did they know it?

As it turns out, “The Climate Deception Dossiers” shows that leading oil giants such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell—just like tobacco companies who buried and denied the threat of cancer for smokers—knew about the dangers of global warming and the role of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions long before the public received warning from the broader scientific community. And what’s worse, of course, is not only that they knew—but how they have spent the last nearly thirty years actively denying the damage they were causing to the planet and its inhabitants.

The new report, explains UCS president Ken Kimmell, “is a sobering exposé of how major fossil fuel companies have … neither been honest about, nor taken responsibility for, the harms they have caused by extracting and putting into commerce the fossil fuels that now place our climate in grave danger. Instead, either directly or indirectly, through trade and industry groups, they have sown doubt about the science of climate change and repeatedly fought efforts to cut the emissions of dangerous heat-trapping gases.”

And as this video shows:

The new report reviews internal documents from some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies—including BP, Chevron, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Phillips, and Shell—spanning the course of 27 years. UCS obtained and reviewed memos that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The documents show that:

  • Companies have directly or indirectly spread climate disinformation for decades;
  • Corporate leaders knew the realities of climate science—that their products were harmful to people and the planet—but still actively deceived the public and denied this harm;
  • The campaign of deception continues, with some of the documents having surfaced as recently as in 2014 and 2015.

UCS has made the complete collection of 85 internal memos—totaling more than 330 pages—available online.

As part of its research, UCS discovered that as early as 1981—nearly seven years before NASA scientist James Hansen made his famous testimony before Congress about the dangers of human-caused global warming—internal discussions about the reality of the threat were already occurring inside the corporate offices of ExxonMobil and others.

In the case of Exxon, an email by one of the companies key scientists explains that, “Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia.” The email explains that the company knew the field was rich in carbon dioxide and that it could become the “largest point source of CO2 in the world,” accounting for 1 percent of projected global CO2 emissions.

The email in question was written in response to an inquiry on business ethics from the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University.

Speaking with the Guardian newspaper, director of the Institute Alyssa Bernstein said the email makes it clear “that Exxon knew years earlier than James Hansen’s testimony to Congress that climate change was a reality; that it accepted the reality, instead of denying the reality as they have done publicly, and to such an extent that it took it into account in their decision making, in making their economic calculation.”

Though stating she did not want to appear “melodramatic,” Bernstein told the Guardian that Exxon’s behavior amounts to a supremely larger moral offense than even the tobacco industry’s obfuscations on smoking “because what is at stake is the fate of the planet, humanity, and the future of civilization.”

Given the scale of their crime, UCS says the “time is ripe to hold these companies accountable for their actions and responsible for the harm they have caused.”

Offering recommendations for what the industry should be doing, the group said companies must:

  • Stop disseminating misinformation about climate change. It is unacceptable for fossil fuel companies to deny established climate science. It is also unacceptable for companies to publicly accept the science while funding climate contrarian scientists or front groups that distort or deny the science.
  • Support fair and cost-effective policies to reduce global warming emissions. It is time for the industry to identify and publicly support policies that will lead to the reduction of emissions at a scale needed to reduce the worst effects of global warming.
  • Reduce emissions from current operations and update their business models to prepare for future global limits on emissions. Companies should take immediate action to cut emissions from their current operations, update their business models to reflect the risks of unabated burning of fossil fuels, and map out the pathway they plan to take in the next 20 years to ensure we achieve a low-carbon energy future.
  • Pay for their share of the costs of climate damages and preparedness. Communities around the world are already facing and paying for damages from rising seas, extreme heat, more frequent droughts, and other climate-related impacts. Today and in the future, fossil fuel companies should pay a fair share of the costs.
  • Fully disclose the financial and physical risks of climate change to their business operations. As is required by law, fossil fuel companies are required to discuss risks—including climate change—that might materially affect their business in their annual SEC filings. Today, compliance with this requirement is not consistent.

“These companies aren’t just trying to block new polices, they’re trying to roll back clean energy and climate laws that are working and are widely supported by the public,” said Nancy Cole, a report author and UCS’s campaign director for climate and energy. “Climate change is already underway – and many communities are struggling to protect their residents and prepare for future changes. The deception simply must stop. It’s time for major carbon companies to become part of the solution.”


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