Keep that oil flowing, boys!

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry's disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. According to the report, ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

"ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer," said Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Director of Strategy & Policy. "A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as Big Tobacco did for over 40 years."


Paul Hue said...

Sixteen million dollars! Over 7 years! Amoung 43 organizations! OK, that's about 2 million per year... divided by 43.

Tom, are you sure that's enough to buy off all the scientists who express doubt about this? Oil company executives want global warming to not be true. And thank god they are providing money to scientists to challange the popular view that burning petro is ruining the world forever; thank god *somebody* is providing money for scientists to scrutinize prevailing dogma. Before buying a doomsday view that requires us to choke the economic progress that's alleviating poverty, I would want to be really sure.

If these oil companies are being devious, if they are creating phony groups, if they are purchasing the opinions of scientists to reach conclusions that please the funders, I oppose that of course. But even if petro companies are doing this, that has the following to do with the question about what causes global warming: NOTHING.

Only science can answer that question, or I should say: honest scientists. I believe that the average human-caused global scientist is honest. I just want dissident scientists to get the same respect; let's keep the debate to the facts and logic.

Paul Hue said...

I haven't read enough of the scientific papers to be certain if humans are the cause of global warming. But I recognize the behavior of the alarmists; it seems very similar to the behavior of the hysterical AIDS scientists. Something in this article of Tom's reminded me of a situation repeated infinately in the AIDS debate: a group of scientists claiming that a crazy irresponsible scientist has used their data and "misrepresented it" into reaching a conclusion opposite -- and thus incorrect! -- from them. In the case of AIDS, where I read the papers, the hysterical scientists always reached an alarming conclusion unjustified by their own data, and the crazy, irresponsible scientists always offered what I considered to be a much more reasonable conclusion.

Is that what's happening here? Are the "vast majority" of scientists -- so obviously wrong about AIDS -- correct about humans destroying the earth with their prosperous economic activities? Are the dissident scientists in this global warming debate really sinister, opinion-selling, lackeys for the petro industry?

I don't know. But I know that when I go to my usual cocktail parties with lefties, I can no more doubt the hysterical AIDS-caused-by-sex model than I can the humans-are-ruining-earth model, wihtout moving the discussion from a sensible and respectful conversation into one of personal offense, outrage, and -- at the very least -- patronizing dismissal of me.

Does this deplorable conduct by enviornmental hysterics make their view incorrect? No, it does not. And if the petro companies are advancing their position with dishonesty, that also doesn't mean that their scientific view is incorrect either.

Unlike in the AIDS debate, here at least one major industry has a vested interest in quelling the hysteria; this leaves hope that dissident scientists may get a voice for people willing to listen. Maybe some of those dissident voices are dishonest; I don't know. But Tom, are you certain that all of them are?

Paul Hue said...


Who bought off these Indian scientists? They also doubt the alarmists.

Tom Philpott said...

Paul, the AIDs analogy falls apart here. US carbon emissions rise every year; the president announced in his state of the union address that he's confident that "technology" will save us from global warming. The US has no serious carbon-reduction program, and from what I hear, the Democrats don't plan to do much about it even if dread Hillary wins. (Memo to rightwingers: You have nothing more to fear from HRC than you did from her husband.)

So what we have is the scientific community essentially united against a political and corporate culture that's doing just fine, thank you very much, from the status quo.)

I wouldn't worry at all about any serious mobilzation to cut emissions. I would, however, worry about the consequences of not doing so.

We had all better hope that the "alarmist" scientists are wrong.

Tom Philpott said...

And, like atheists who secretly worry that the Bible-thumpers are actually right, you and Six probably harbor fears of what things might be like in 20 years when your kids are adults. Or no?

Paul Hue said...


Here's five meteorologists in Ohio who also doubt human-caused global warming. Tom, where they paid off? Or just fooled by others who were?

As to your question: I do worry that global warming is occurring, that it could be catastrophic, and that the actions that have enabled human prosperity have caused it. The difference between you and me: I am uncertain.

Paul Hue said...

Tom wrote: ==============
Memo to rightwingers: You have nothing more to fear from HRC than you did from her husband.

Bill faced a repo-congress and senate, so he adopted many of their positions. If Hillary has a demo-congress/senate, then I fear tax hikes, socialized medicine, etc.

Paul Hue said...

I have already conceded, Tom, that unlike the AIDS mess, the global warming skeptics do have some politicians and corporate backing. But as with the AIDS fiasco, scientists do face penalty for not walking in lock-step. And so do people at cocktail parties.

Paul Hue said...

I certainly do hope that the alarmists are wrong and that the skeptics are correct. If the alarmists are correct, I do have confidence that technologists will save humanity, just as they always have.

Nadir said...

Paul expresses so many doubts. It looks like ExxonMobil's disinformation tactics are still working...