You should be angry. Very angry. And, yes, heartbroken. Why?
Decades ago, Big Tobacco deceived America by sowing lies and confusion about the dangers of smoking, denying and suppressing medical research. Now it looks like the oil and gas industry has done the same thing.
I’ve been reading the excellent investigative reporting by Inside Climate News (scooping Big Media!) on ExxonMobil’s cover-up of its own global warming research. I am not a cynic, so yes: it stuns me to learn that the findings of the oil company’s own climate scientists were suppressed — 25 years ago. Company scientists warned ExxonMobil: the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels was endangering our climate’s stability. But instead of doing the right, and protective, thing, the reporting indicates that ExxonMobil chose to suppress, and then distort, their own scientists’ findings. ExxonMobil went on to spend millions of dollars funding climate denial for decades, contributing to national confusion, setting up fake debates on science, and causing national paralysis in the face of this serious crisis.
The result? Misinformed citizens, misinformed politicians, misinformed editors and reporters—unable to properly steer our democracy. That’s where the heartbreak comes in: think how much better shape the world would be in if we had seriously deployed methods to bring carbon and methane emissions under control decades ago.
The truth eventually gets out. But we are in the race of our lives. We must cut climate pollution before we trigger unstoppable polar melting, calamitous flooding, crop devastation and more.
We continue to see the long, troubling, cynical reach of corporate polluters. These days, the chemical oligarch Koch Brothers, whose fortunes are petroleum-based, are funding efforts around the country to undermine the growth of the solar energy industry.
Solar energy now employs more people than the coal industry. But it is dwarfed by the oil and gas industry — so we won’t get a clean energy transition without demanding one.
Clean renewable energy is critical to curbing greenhouse gas pollution. Climate deniers are fighting the small subsidies the U.S. gives new industries to help them get off the ground — ignoring billions of dollars worth, yearly, of oil and gas tax breaks — for a century. In much of the U.S., no-money-down household solar panels are legal—but not in North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, or Oklahoma. And elsewhere, solar is being vigorously fought—by oil polluters.
Polluters resort to tired old scare tactics. Over and over again, pollution protections have not hurt customers, have not hurt reliability, and have not hurt the U.S. economy. Quite the contrary. Protection from pollution is good for all bottom lines.
Some companies are doing the right thing, from a business perspective as well as a moral perspective: Texas-based NRG Energy, for instance, has started a solar division, and its prospects look, well, sunny.
America has always achieved engineering and ingenuity leadership. We’ve led the world in the last tech revolution. We should maintain that lead — and the rocket boost it gives our economy — as the energy revolution develops. It will happen with or without us.
We should all be very, very angry. At ExxonMobil, at the Koch Brothers, at climate deniers, at those who put our world in peril. And we should all make our voices heard.
Give us the truth. And give us a safer world.