George Will still has a job at the Washington Post. They certainly aren’t paying him by the word. Perhaps they’re paying him for the lies he’s willing to tell in defending the indefensible. Take a look at his latest screed, which makes the astounding argument that Exxon Mobil, and the legion of climate change “skeptics” that Exxon and other fossil fuel behemoths have funded over the years, are all victims of an Orwellian assault by hordes of progressive authoritarians seeking to criminalize their speech.
Authoritarianism, always latent in progressivism, is becoming explicit. Progressivism’s determination to regulate thought by regulating speech is apparent in the campaign by 16 states’ attorneys general and those of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, none Republican, to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly “settled” conclusions of climate science.
If you are wondering what the hell he’s talking about (since George was too lazy to provide any sources for his claim), it’s probably this report regarding a joint statement by, yes, the Attorney Generals of sixteen states and the U.S. Virgin Islands that they will cooperate with one another on possible litigation against entities that seek to fraudulently mislead the public regarding the science of climate change.
The group … said it will pursue climate change litigation. Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands officially joined an ongoing investigation into potential fraud by ExxonMobil, and all the states committed to working together as “creatively, collaboratively, and aggressively” as possible to combat climate change.
Sounds sinister, doesn’t it? Well, in George Will’s mind it’s positively one of the worst evils imaginable. Here is how he characterizes this “agreement” by the top law enforcement officials in their respective states.
The epithet “climate change deniers,” obviously coined to stigmatize skeptics as akin to Holocaust deniers, is designed to obscure something obvious: Of course the climate is changing; it never is not changing — neither before nor after the Medieval Warm Period (end of the 9th century to the 13th century) and the Little Ice Age (1640s to 1690s), neither of which was caused by fossil fuels.
That’s right, George Will goes full Godwin, all to defend one of his best friends, a multi-national corporation under investigation for its deliberate and long term effort to suppress information about the effect its main product, fossil fuels, has had in changing the Earth’s climate for the worse.
The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business. […]
The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.
The people said the inquiry would include a period of at least a decade during which Exxon Mobil funded outside groups that sought to undermine climate science, even as its in-house scientists were outlining the potential consequences — and uncertainties — to company executives.
George Will, in his defense of Exxon and climate “skeptics,” makes a pathetic attempt to raise the issue of our cherished 1st Amendment right to free speech to obscure the lies of Big Oil and their well paid propagandists. Conveniently he fails to mention that the first government litigation regarding climate change was brought against climate scientists, such as the effort to intimidate climate researchers by then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, in the lawsuit he brought against the most famous climate change scientist not named James Hansen, Michael Mann. Mann was also subjected to further legal harassment when he was investigated by his own University, Penn State, on the charge that he manipulated his data to prove the existence of global warming, though he was cleared of all charges by the investigating committee, which found by a unanimous decision that:
Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.
This came after Rand Simberg, a scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is a conservative think tank funded by Exxon well known for attacking climate change researchers, compared Dr. Mann to Jerry Sandusky, a Penn State football coach convicted on numerous counts of of sex with young boys. But hey, free speech. Climate Change science research is the equivalent of pedophilia. All’s fair in business and war.
So, does Will have a valid point when he claims Exxon is being unfairly targeted for its statements denying the risks that fossil fuels are related to climate change? Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. You see, major corporations whose shares are traded publicly are required to disclose all known risks associated with an investment in their company. And last year, reports surfaced that Exxon knew that fossil fuels were associated with climate change as long ago as 1977, but that it actively suppressed that information, particularly after James Hansen’s testimony before the Senate in 1988 tying human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, to global warming.
In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” In other words, Exxon needed to act. […]
[E]xperts agree that Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion. By 1989 the company had helped create the Global Climate Coalition (disbanded in 2002) to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also helped to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 to control greenhouse gases. Exxon’s tactic not only worked on the U.S. but also stopped other countries, such as China and India, from signing the treaty. At that point, “a lot of things unraveled,” Oreskes says.
Exxon used precisely the same strategy and tactics to deny climate change that the large tobacco companies employed o muddy the waters when researchers linked use of their products to increased health risks of cancers, heart disease and COPD.
[In April, 2014], the so-called Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) released its fifth report “debunking” the findings of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to the NIPCC report, which was published by the conservative think tank the Heartland Institute, global warming is nothing to worry about. It’s just a natural process that’s happened hundreds of times before. If anything, the report concludes, global warming could be a good thing because extra CO2 in the atmosphere means more air for plants to breath. […]
The Heartland Institute, the think tank that published the NIPCC report, is largely funded by the fossil fuel industry and its allies. In fact, it’s received around $67 million dollars over the past thirty years from donors like Exxon Mobil, the Koch Brothers, and the Scaife Foundation. All stand to get very, very rich if we continue pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
The NIPCC report’s leading authors, meanwhile, are a virtual who’s who of the climate denial industry. Dr. Fred Singer, the group’s founder, has been pushing the lie that global warming isn’t a big deal for decades now, and fossil fuel companies have helped him out all along the way. Another author, Craig Idso, actually used to work for coal giant Peabody Energy.
Shocking, I know. But that isn’t the worst of it, from a legal standpoint anyway. A study of Exxon’s mandatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows that the company own 10-K reports include lies of commission and omission regarding the risks and liabilities it faces as a result of its products’ contribution to climate change.
[W]e have reviewed all of the 10-K forms ExxonMobil has submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1993 (the furthest back these forms are available online) to the present, in an effort to better understand how this oil giant has addressed the climate change threat — a threat Exxon itself has been shown to fully grasp going back four decades, despite its rhetoric to the contrary. […] From what we see in the 10-Ks, each over a hundred pages long and requiring, on average, 2,000 hours to complete, Exxon has done a masterful job of hedging its bets, both by omission and commission: omitting mere mention for many years, and then grossly understating, the vast array of direct and indirect risks it faces as a result of climate change. Even worse, Exxon has overtly and flagrantly overstated possible financial and economic risks associated with regulating carbon and other GHGs, both here in the US and in nations around the world.
If you really want to dig down deep into the black pit of lies and deceit Exxon and other fossil fuel companies employed to benefit themselves at the expense of our species future, please read The Climate Deception Dossiers, which was compiled by The Union of Concerned Scientists. It provides decades worth of internal memos and research proving the big oil companies knew about the effect burning fossil fuels would have on the environment. It also provides details regarding the actions they took to hide that information from the public while also funding disinformation campaigns and attacks on any and all research produced by climate scientists that linked use of fossil fuels to global warming.
In addition to federal securities law violations, there are many other statutes, both civil and criminal, that make lies and false representations actionable offenses under state and possibly federal law. Suffice it to say, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and the sixteen other Attorney Generals who have agreed to cooperate in investigating the fossil fuel industry’s massive propaganda efforts promoting climate change denial, have more than enough justification to investigate potential avenues of legal action that may be taken against Exxon and others for the harm they have caused. Which makes Will’s protests of some metaphorical boot of totalitarian progressivism being ground into the face of one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world all the more farcical.
The attorney general of the Virgin Islands accuses ExxonMobil of criminal misrepresentation regarding climate change. This, even though before the U.S. government in 2009 first issued an endangerment finding regarding greenhouse gases, ExxonMobil favored a carbon tax to mitigate climate consequences of those gases. This grandstanding attorney general’s contribution to today’s gangster government is the use of law enforcement tools to pursue political goals — wielding prosecutorial weapons to chill debate, including subpoenaing private donor information from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. […]
The leader of the attorneys general, New York’s Eric Schneiderman, dismisses those who disagree with him as “morally vacant.” His moral content is apparent in his campaign to ban fantasy sports gambling because it competes with the gambling (state lottery, casinos, off-track betting) that enriches his government.
… These garden-variety authoritarians are eager to regulate us into conformity with the “settled” consensus du jour, whatever it is. But they are progressives, so it is for our own good.
These silly ad hominem attacks Will is forced to fall back on to defend the immensity of Big Oil and Coal’s immoral actions would normally make me laugh, if the issue wasn’t so deadly serious. But then, I don’t have the sinecure and financial security accorded to Will, who will have a job as a columnist at the Washington Post for as long as his brain can put two semi-coherent sentences together. All in the interest of being fair and balanced, of course. Enjoy your dirty money Georgie Boy. I’m sure your “friends” think you’ve more than earned it.