The Wall Street Journal, Climate Change Denial, and the Galileo Gambit
Fossil fuel companies have been misleading the public and policymakers about the risks of their products for decades. These corporations should obviously be held accountable.
It’s odd that we aren’t able to discuss this straightforwardly. After all, accountability is common for other industries. When companies mislead the public about the health effects of the drugs they market, for instance, we hold them accountable.
Similarly, when asbestos manufacturers misled the public about the cancers their product caused, they were held accountable. When Enron misled its customers and shareholders, it was held accountable. And when we learned that Volkswagen cheated consumers by secretly embedding an emissions control “kill switch” in it’s diesel vehicles, citizens and government officials swung into action to hold the company accountable.
Most significantly, when we discovered that the tobacco industry hid information about the addictive nature and deadly toll of cigarettes and systematically engaged in a decades-long campaign to misinform the public, we held the industry accountable.
Given this history, let’s be clear about what we now know regarding the fossil fuel industry’s history of deception on climate change.
As early as the late 1970s, executives at fossil fuel companies were well aware that burning oil, gas and coal could cause irreversible and dangerous climate change. Indeed, as early as 1981, Exxon-Mobil was weighing whether or not to develop carbon-intense gas reserves off the coast of Indonesia because of the climate risks associated with the project.
Exxon-Mobil and other fossil fuel companies chose, however, to suppress what its own scientists knew. From 1979 to 1983, the American Petroleum Institute operated a scientific task force to study climate change. According to a researcher who worked on the project, it was taken out of scientists’ hands and quickly buried — and forgotten — until reporters —> Read More