How Corporate Lobbying Turned Climate Change into a Climate Emergency
Destroying the climate may be legal but it is extremely evil
Welcome to the web version of
Need to Know: Science & Insight
, a new form of personal journalism that looks at what we
at this time of pandemic, existential crisis of climate change and unravelling of nature’s life supports.
[Updated July 8]
I was going to talk about creating a circular economy but given what’s happening this issue is about extremes…and evil.
Extreme heat and wild fires recently killed hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, in western North America.
“I shudder to think what the mortality rate will be from this event,” said Phil Mote, a climate scientist at Oregon State University.
The week before Russia was hotter than India and wildfires swept through Siberia with temperatures 15C higher than normal. Russia has endured extreme heat and fire three years in a row. Western US and Canada has been in drought virtually all of the 21st century.
Forests across huge of regions of US, Canada and Siberia are in big trouble. Insects and disease are killing drought-weakened trees creating perfect conditions for more and bigger wildfires.
Need-to-Know 1: Our climate emergency means extreme extremes. These occur more often and can hit the same regions year after year.
Climate-fueled wildfires and heat waves are just two types of extreme events. There are many more. And extreme events are only one category of climate impacts. Our climate emergency is “fundamentally reshaping life on Earth” says an draft IPCC report. It’s extremely plain who is largely responsible for this.
Need-to-Know 2. Only extremists deny fossil fuels are responsible for the climate emergency.
Then there’s the extreme arrogance and extreme disregard for human life plainly revealed by ExxonMobil’s political lobbyists in secretly recorded interviews. They literally bragged about how they aggressively fought science to deny climate change in order to maximize Exxon’s profits. Exxon and others have known fossil fuels are causing climate change since the mid 1980s.
In 1958, a Shell Oil executive presented a paper to the industry’s trade group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), warning about increased carbon emissions from car exhaust. This led to a White House advisory committee in the 1960s to express concern at “measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate” by the year 2000.
API’s own reports concluded “significant temperature changes” possible by 2000.
Buying political influence in the US Congress and Senate was the other thing Exxon lobbyists bragged about:
“I make sure I get them the right information that they need so they look good. And then they help me out. They’re a captive audience. They know they need you.”
“And just having that conversation [about electric vehicles and alternative energy] around why that’s not possible in the next 10 years is critically important to the work that we do.”
One said he spoke weekly to the office of Senator Joe Manchin: “the Kingmaker” in the Senate.
All this influence works very well. Exxon and it’s allies have diluted the climate provisions of President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill and gutted the Green New Deal. The fossil fuel industry has successfully worked for years to delay the roll-out of alternative energy, and lobbied to keep, and even increase the $billions they get in public subsidies.
Need-to-Know 3: The fossil fuel industry will go to extreme lengths to slow the clean energy transition.
Sadly corporations undermining what’s best for public to benefit their bottom line and boost executive bonuses is a perverse norm: All perfectly legal no matter how immoral and short-sighted. In fact those Exxon lobbyists said it was their duty for which they are well-compensated.
Need-to-Know 4: Our legal structures protect corporate interests, no matter how extreme, over that of citizens.
This is also the norm pretty well everywhere. Oil and gas corporations and the allies they rent met (via video) with Canadian government officials a total of 1,224 times in 2020 — an average of 4.5 times per working day. The oil and gas sector is the biggest and fastest growing carbon emission source in Canada and why its emissions increased after Canada signed the Paris climate agreement.
Need-to-Know 5: Corporate lobbying is how Climate Change became a Climate Emergency.
The oil and gas industry are now talking about net zero by 2050, but they have zero interest in a transition to clean energy. At last week’s OPEC meeting the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company told The Financial Times:
“We will not leave any opportunity unturned…continuing exploration programmes, identifying proven reserves, increasing production.”
Abu Dhabi’s proven reserves top 100 billion barrels — enough to pollute the atmosphere with another 50 billion tons of carbon. And they are looking for more….
Others at the OPEC meeting, who have even more oil, were more concerned about fixing an oil price that keeps profits high but doesn’t encourage a switch to alternative energy and electric vehicles. Saudi Arabia, which can make money with $10 a barrel prices, is particularly worried about this.
US and Canada oil interests are not members of OPEC but you can bet they are active on the sidelines.
Need-to-Know 6: The fossil fuel industry is extremely good at protecting their interests no matter where they are.
Extreme Immorality: The Drug Dealers’ Defense
Like drug dealers and the tobacco industry, oil and gas executives have long known their products are killing people - air pollution alone kills 8 million a year. As for climate emergency and the death and destruction it’s causing, fossil fuel industry scientists predicted rising global temperatures with stunning accuracy 40 years ago.
Like drug dealers, fossil-fuel dealers have gone to extreme lengths to keep the world addicted to their dangerous product. They will continue to take extreme measures to prevent us from kicking our addiction to their profitable products. Yes, even knowing their products are destroying our climate.
How’s that for an extreme, extreme?
Need-to-Know 7: Currently it’s extremely legal to profit from destroying our climate.
US, Canadian and Norwegian oil and gas producers constantly claim they can’t reduce their production because the evil, nasty Russians and Saudis will sell more. That is known as The Drug Dealers’ Defense because it’s exactly what drug dealers say:
“Hey man, I’m just selling a product people want.
If I don’t sell it, someone else will.”
That’s not how supply and demand works. Prices go up when production goes down creating a big incentive to switch EVs and green energy. That’s why the industry manipulates the price of oil, spends hundreds of millions on lobbying, PR and anti-science propaganda. That’s why it took 21 years to get to a Paris climate agreement. And that’s why that agreement is doing so little. And that’s why there are no laws to cut fossil fuel production of a product that’s killing people today and destroying our climate.
Need-to-Know 8: It’s extremely odd the fossil fuel industry seems able to gut any climate regulation, legislation or agreement in any country.
Extreme Evil Case Study:
The Sackler family of Purdue Pharma made billions selling the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin that killed hundreds of thousands, left millions addicted and shattered the lives of millions of families. The Sackler’s lied about the medical risks of OxyContin as they had for other ‘miracle’ drugs they’d pushed since the 1950s.
To whitewash their evil they made generous public donations and the Sackler name is/was prominently displayed at leading universities, art museums, medical research centers, libraries in the US and other countries.
No family member faces criminal charges. The family kept most of its billions.
Exxon says it gave $203 million in donations in 2020. This isn’t charity. They admit these are “investments in where we do business”. Exxon is clear this is quid pro quo.
All drug dealers need a network of ‘associates’ from enforcers to money-launders to public officials to prop them up. The fossil fuel industry has an extensive network of investors, major banks, insurance companies, government officials and many others. Some may be true believers that fossil fuels do more good than harm; most are just well-compensated to look the other way.
Extreme Evil Incorporated
The bottomline? The fossil fuel industry has to stop increasing the production of their climate-killing products. And have concrete plans to reduce production in the next year or so.
If companies refuse to do this, and so far they are, what else can you call them but evil?
What could be more evil than pushing a product knowing it is killing people today and killing the future health and well-being of billions including your children and grandchildren?
And what would you call the network of ‘associates’ who prop up the world’s most evil companies?
I’d call them evil too.
Need-to-Know 9: What the fossil fuel industry continues to do to us, generations to come and every living thing can’t be called anything else but extreme evil.
Until next time, be rightly and extremely outraged.