From the November 15 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
From the November 12 edition of Fox News' The Real Story:
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Amid a newly-announced investigation of ExxonMobil by the attorney general of New York and calls from all three Democratic presidential candidates for the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a federal probe of the oil giant, Exxon is feeling heat over evidence that it deceived the public for decades about the science of climate change. So the company is lashing out at the media organizations that compiled that evidence, and recent opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post are assisting Exxon's disinformation campaign.
Following an eight-month investigation that included interviews with former Exxon employees and an extenstive examination of primary sources, including internal Exxon documents dating back to the 1970's, InsideClimate News published a six-part series in September and October detailing "how Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago and then, without revealing all that it had learned, worked at the forefront of climate denial." The Los Angeles Times conducted its own investigation with Columbia University's Energy & Environmental Reporting Project and reached a similar conclusion: in the 1980's Exxon "earned a public reputation as a pioneer in climate change research," but by 1990 the company began "pour[ing] millions into a campaign that questioned climate change." The Times reported that the documents, along with "the recollections of former employees," indicate that ExxonMobil changed its stance on the issue because it "feared a growing public consensus would lead to financially burdensome policies."
Exxon initially responded by seeking to dismiss the InsideClimate News investigation as the work of "anti-oil and gas activists" (never mind that InsideClimate News is a Pulitzer Prize-winning media organization). But now Exxon has adopted a new strategy: seek to discredit the Los Angeles Times' characterization of a single Exxon document in order to undermine the mountains of evidence that Exxon purposefully deceived the public about climate change.
Exxon put this strategy into action in a November 5 blog post, in which Exxon Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Ken Cohen claimed that the Times was "deliberating hiding" a 1989 Exxon presentation it cited against Exxon because the document supposedly "undercuts the paper's claims that ExxonMobil knew with certainty everything there is to know about global warming back in the 1980s yet failed to sound alarms." The Exxon complaint was quickly picked up by a November 8 Wall Street Journal editorial, which claimed that the 1989 document proves that the InsideClimate News and Times investigations "selectively quote from internal Exxon documents," and a November 8 column by The Washington Post's Robert Samuelson, who repeated Cohen's claim that the 1989 document shows how the media investigations "'cherry-pick' their evidence."
Exxon is attacking the Times for reporting that the 1989 presentation, by Exxon scientist Duane LeVine, showed Exxon recognized that "scientists generally agreed gases released by burning fossil fuels could raise global temperatures significantly by the middle of the 21st century." In particular, Exxon objects to the Times not mentioning that LeVine said in the same document, "I do not believe" that "the science has demonstrated the existence of [potential enhanced greenhouse] today," and "enhanced greenhouse is still deeply imbedded in scientific uncertainty." (LeVine defined "potential enhanced greenhouse" as the "enhancement of [the greenhouse effect] due to human activities.")
But the Times is correct in pointing out that LeVine acknowledged the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels was projected to lead to significant warming. From page 20 of LeVine's 1989 presentation (emphasis added):
[The Department of Energy's] CO2 projections are used in current climate models to predict important changes over the next 100 years. This set of results is taken from the National Research Council (NRC) report "Changing Climate".
Consensus predictions call for warming 1.5-4.5 [degrees Celsius] for doubled CO2 with greater warming at the poles. Note that these numbers reflect the range produced by available models. No one knows how to evaluate the absolute uncertainty in the numbers.
The extent and thickness of glaciers are predicted to decrease, leading to sea level rise. The NRC report chose a most likely value of 70 cm sea level rise. Other predictions suggest a broader range from 30-200 cm. The rise occurs both from a larger amount of water in the oceans, and from thermal expansion.
Finally, climate change and higher levels of atmospheric CO2 affect agriculture and ecosystems.
The Times is also correct when it says that LeVine urged Exxon to "[t]ell the public that more science is needed before regulatory action is taken ... and emphasize the 'costs and economics' of restricting carbon dioxide emissions." From page 33 of the presentation (emphasis added, ellipses original):
To be a responsible participant and part of the solution to [potential enhanced greenhouse], Exxon's position should recognize and support 2 basic societal needs. First ... to improve understanding of the problem ... not just the science ... but the costs and economics tempered by the sociopolitical realities. That's going to take years (probably decades). But there are measures already underway that will improve our environment in various ways ... and in addition reduce the growth in greenhouse gases. That's the second need including things like energy conservation, restriction of CFC emissions, and efforts to increase the global ratio of re/de forestation. Of course, we'll need to develop other response options...implementing measures when they are cost effective in the near term and pursuing new technologies for the future.
In the presentation, LeVine drew a distinction between historical warming up to that point -- which he claimed is "not enough to confirm enhanced greenhouse" (page 22) -- and projections, which he said "suggest ... significant climate change with a variety of regional impacts" and "sea level rise with generally negative consequences" (page 22). Then, after identifying the "key players" that were likely to increasingly call for action to address climate change (page 23), LeVine claimed there is a "misconception" that "enough research on the basic problem has been done," and argued that "failure to understand" the need for scientific advances and uncertainty in the climate models could "lead to premature limitations on fossil fuels" (page 31).
So LeVine acknowledged the scientific consensus on climate change while simultaneously arguing that he personally did not believe anthropogenic global warming was fully proven and that more research was necessary before restricting fossil fuel use. In that sense, LeVine's presentation is indicative of Exxon's shift towards attempting to "emphasize [the] doubt," just as the Times described it.
The year of LeVine's presentation also fits with the timeline for Exxon's shift on climate science that was identified in the InsideClimate News investigation (emphasis added):
Through much of the 1980s, Exxon researchers worked alongside university and government scientists to generate objective climate models that yielded papers published in peer-reviewed journals. Their work confirmed the emerging scientific consensus on global warming's risks.
Yet starting in 1989, Exxon leaders went down a different road. They repeatedly argued that the uncertainty inherent in computer models makes them useless for important policy decisions. Even as the models grew more powerful and reliable, Exxon publicly derided the type of work its own scientists had done. The company continued its involvement with climate research, but its reputation for objectivity began to erode as it campaigned internationally to cast doubt on the science.
With this full context, it's clear that the Times' characterization of LeVine's presentation is justified and Exxon's response is a deceptive smokescreen.
But it's also important to remember that LeVine's presentation is just one of many primary source documents examined by the Times and InsideClimate News. Here is a sampling of other documents showing that Exxon scientists and officials recognized by the early-to-mid-eighties that there was broad scientific consensus continuing to burn fossil fuels would lead to climate change, even if the amount of warming was still unclear:
Image at top via Flickr user Mike Mozart using a Creative Commons license.
From the November 10 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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A Wall Street Journal op-ed declared that the World Health Organization's (WHO) recent statement linking red and processed meats to cancer was not actually about protecting public health, but "about fighting global warming."
The November 9 op-ed, headlined "The Climate Agenda Behind the Bacon Scare," claimed WHO's announcement "seems particularly well timed" to coincide with upcoming United Nations climate negotiations, where nations hope to achieve an international agreement to act on global warming. The writers dismissed WHO's conclusions about cancer -- which were was based on an assessment of "more than 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets" -- as "flimsy at best," and posited that its findings would be used by environmental activists or "doomsayers" who "want to take on modern agriculture" to reduce greenhouse gas-intensive meat consumption. The op-ed concluded: "In other words, meat is a double threat that governments should contain. Hang on to your T-bones and sausages, folks."
One of the op-ed writers, Jeff Stier, is described as head of the "risk analysis division" at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR). NCPPR has been given at least $445,000 from ExxonMobil, and has received over $300,000 from DonorsTrust, a dark money group that receives large donations from groups connected to the oil billionaire Koch brothers.
NCPPR has extensively railed against climate change efforts, including attacking the CIA for providing climate data to scientists, making the false claim that Pope Francis' climate stance could hurt the poor, and urging Apple to end their environmental initiatives.
Stier is also listed as a health and scientific policy expert at the Heartland Institute, which is known for its annual climate denial conferences and has received over $700,000 from ExxonMobil. Julie Kelly -- the co-author of the Journal op-ed -- was listed as a food writer, but she is also a food policy adviser for Heartland, according to National Review.
The New York Times recently reported that China had released new data showing that the country has burned significantly more coal in recent years than previously thought. Conservative media are alleging that China is "lying" and using this news to undermine the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Paris, where nations hope to reach an international climate change agreement. But experts say China's revised data, which has been known to policymakers for months, is a result of improved accounting -- not deception -- and has already been incorporated into the international negotiations.
Fox host Neil Cavuto devoted much of his two-hour Fox Business show to criticizing President Obama's decision to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Over the course of his show, Cavuto questioned whether climate change is man-made, suggested Keystone XL would have been "one of the cleanest pipelines ever made," likened pipeline opponents to protesters in London who "got pretty violent," mocked Obama for rejecting the pipeline to appease "the French," claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin "must be liking this," and told coal company CEO Robert Murray that Obama is "kind of sticking a knife in you guys."
From the November 6 edition of Fox Business' Cavuto: Coast to Coast:
The Washington Times touted a report attacking the process the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used to develop proposed restrictions on environmentally-destructive mining in Alaska's Bristol Bay, without disclosing that the report was funded by the company that wants to build the mine.
The EPA has invoked Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect Alaska's ecologically sensitive Bristol Bay region, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, from the possible "catastrophic" impacts of a proposed gold and copper mine. Pebble Limited Partnership, the company that has been seeking approval to construct a mine in the region, commissioned former defense secretary William Cohen's firm to author a report on whether or not EPA acted "fairly" in its evaluation of potential mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.
Rather than note that the study was funded by a company with a vested interest in the outcome, The Washington Times simply stated that the report was conducted "by Mr. Cohen, who was in Democratic President Clinton's cabinet." The Washington Times also did not mention that Cohen was a Republican member of both the House and Senate before joining the Clinton administration.
In addition to having a financial conflict of interest, the Cohen report did not make meaningfully different claims than the Pebble Limited Partnership had already made itself, and was nowhere near as accurate, comprehensive, or transparent as the EPA's own methodical scientific review.
From the November 6 article in The Washington Times:
At the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing, Republicans took aim at the EPA's objectivity in assessing the project, producing a cache of emails from EPA staffers obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, author of an Oct. 6 report critical of the process, pointed out that the project lies on state land designated for mining, not federal land.
"The notion that the EPA can make you file something that you're not ready to file, and over the objections of the state of Alaska, is, it seems to me, that's quite a stretch for EPA's power," Mr. Cohen said.
The report by Mr. Cohen, who was in Democratic President Clinton's cabinet, concluded that the EPA had acted unfairly by using the less comprehensive 404(c) authority instead of evaluating a permit application under the National Environmental Policy Act.
"EPA's unprecedented, preemptive use of Section 404(c) before a permit filing, in my judgment, exacerbated the shortcomings of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and inhibited the involvement of two key participants -- the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Alaska," Mr. Cohen said in his testimony.
His findings were echoed in a report released Wednesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which accused the EPA of exercising a "preemptive veto" against the mine by undertaking a rarely used 404(c) review.
The report cites a 2010 email in which Mr. Hough, an environmental scientist in the EPA's wetlands division, says that, "we have never gone down the route of a 'preemptive' 404(c) action before."
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to protect Alaska's Bristol Bay, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, from the adverse environmental impacts of a proposed mineral excavation project called the Pebble Mine. Proponents of the mine have been pushing an array of falsehoods, many of which are being propagated in the media as the EPA's process for evaluating the project was scrutinized in a November 5 Congressional hearing. Here are the facts.
Ed Rogers is the chairman of a top lobbying firm that's received more than $700,000 from the energy industry so far this year, and is also a lobbyist for Southern Company, an electrical utility company that is fighting environmental protections. But the Washington Post is allowing Rogers to write a blog where he repeatedly dismisses the scientific consensus on climate change and echoes his client's attacks against President Obama's flagship climate plan without disclosing his lobbying clients.
A new NASA study found that there has been a net increase in land ice in Antarctica in recent years, despite a decline in some parts of the continent. The study's lead author astutely predicted that climate science deniers would distort the study, even though it does nothing to contradict the scientific consensus on climate change or the fact that sea levels will continue to rise.
From the November 4 edition of Fox Business' Mornings with Maria:
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Conservative media are baselessly fearmongering that the upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris will create a United Nations "court" with the power to punish the U.S. for its "climate debt" and implement a massive redistribution of wealth from the U.S. and other wealthy nations to developing countries. These media figures are referring to a proposal by Bolivia to establish an "International Tribunal of Climate Justice" to deal with countries that fail to comply with an international climate change agreement, but the Tribunal is reportedly "a non-starter with almost every other country going to the Paris talks," and experts believe there are more feasible methods along the lines of nuclear non-proliferation treaties for ensuring countries meet their climate-related commitments.
Conservative media outlets are wrongly claiming that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hiding data related to a recent study that challenged the so-called "pause" in global warming, and echoing Republican House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith's baseless accusation that NOAA manipulated temperature records to show a warming trend. In reality, the NOAA study's data is publicly available online, and NOAA routinely makes adjustments to historical temperature records that are peer-reviewed and necessary to account for changes to measuring instruments and other factors.