A lot of times, I read something that I really want to write about. But it sits around in an open tab. It’s often because I think it is so important that I don’t get around to it, because I want to give it more time than I usually do. And I never find I have the amount of time that I need. And I don’t now. But you really should know about this series of articles from Inside Climate News, Exxon: The Road Not Taken. The first article is, Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago.
We are talking back as early as the 1970s. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. When I was in graduate school, I had interactions with real climate scientists who worked for Exxon. Some very good work came out of Exxon, but it was clear over the years that it became more and more just a matter of looking for uncertainties for marketing rather than looking for the truth. But certainly by the mid-1970s, people like Veerabhadran Ramanathan had demonstrated how radiative forcing worked, using simple models of the atmosphere. It ain’t complicated. Of course Exxon’s own people were saying that its primary commodity was effectively poisoning the the atmosphere.
And Exxon and the other oil companies responded in exactly the same way that the tobacco companies had responded to the research that showed it caused cancer: denial. And it used many of the same people, including my old friend Fred Singer. The the truth is that the oil companies had a worse problem than the tobacco companies. The tobacco companies have been able to push all the harder into other areas of the world where they can murder people who don’t have strong government protections. But there was nothing that the oil companies could do. It had to be a fight to the death.
I really think at this point that the Republican Party’s total denial of science — not just when it comes to global warming, but when it comes to everything — is due to this problem. The only way to continue to do nothing about global warming is to deny reality. It’s like some stereotype of a hippy, “What is truth anything?” So it isn’t just the atmosphere that Exxon and friends have managed to poison: it’s also the brains of the Republican Party — not that it wasn’t primed for this anyway with its supply side dogma and so on.
Jonathan Chait brought my attention to some interesting new research and brought up an important question, Why Are Republicans the Only Climate-Science-Denying Party in the World? I was only vaguely aware of this, but conservative parties in the other advanced democratic countries accept that global warming is happening and are committed to doing something about it. It is only the Republican Party that has turned into a hotbed of conspiracy theories about hoaxes — and at very least, people who are going to avoid the problem until drought and crop failures cause worldwide famine.
Unfortunately, Chait doesn’t have an answer to his own question. But I think it is all about money. In the US, the rich have always had a huge amount of power and they have only gotten more powerful. We can’t have climate regulations, because that would hurt some rich people. We must have supply side economics because that helps rich people. We can’t have universal healthcare because that would cost the rich a little money. At the same time, in order to hold its coalition together, the Republican Party has had to get out on the loony fringe of social issues like guns and reproductive rights.
I’ve long felt that eventually — in 50 to 100 years, there will be another World War. It will be between the US (with a couple of our puppet allies) and the rest of the world. And we will be the bad guys. Because I really don’t see us reforming from the inside. Our democracy has rotted. A putrid smell has only begun to suffocate the rest of the world. But it will get worse — much worse. Maybe we can stop it. But as I think I’ve made very clear: if the economy goes bad next year, we will have the Republicans in control of Washington. And that means more pollution, war with Iran, a worse and more unequal economy. And the American people will mostly sleep through it until they wake up in 2020 like Punxsutawney Phil to see if the economy is improving and vote just based upon that — even if our cities are on fire and there are regional water wars.