The Climate Files: How Big Fossil Made Doubt Their Product

January 20, 2019

They knew

Source docs at Climate Files.


34 Responses to “The Climate Files: How Big Fossil Made Doubt Their Product”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    “So if judges leave the punishment of the petroleum business (who knew) to the government, what action do you think they will take ? . .”

    Call me a purist, but……..

    Big Oil has been making gasoline for over 100 years. And the EPA was created at the end of 1970. Does anyone really think that the only scientists who knew that burning gasoline caused CO2 emissions worked at Exxon?

    The earlier we can establish awareness of the environmental dangers of burning FF’s, the earlier we can establish that WE the people are responsible for AGW. Not Exxon et al.

    Exxon made gas. Gas doesn’t (essentially) have GHG emissions. Not until you burn it in a car or in a furnace. Only then does it make GHG’s. From at least 1970 on, we ALL knew what we were doing – every single effing time we filled up at the gas station or turned the ignition key or turned up the thermostat.

    And Exxon made gas since 1970 in a country which had a functioning EPA. Exxon did have have any responsibility to inform the public or the EPA. This was not arcane knowledge, that burning FF’s caused the Greenhouse effect. Science has known this since before the end of the nineteenth century. It was absolutely public effing knowledge that our cars were polluting the air and contributing to greenhouse effect.

    We all knew this. Don’t try to lay the blame for this on Exxon. We have met the enemy, and they are Us.

    • redskylite Says:

      Isn’t that a bit like saying Tobacco only damages lungs and health when lit ? And call me naive but I did not know until around 10 years ago, when I stopped my busy work life and studied the science at reputable Universities. It wasn’t widely known in the 70’s or 80’s. Retrospectively James Burke spelled it out in the 90’s, but I didn’t watch his great series then.

      • ecoquant Says:


        It wasn’t widely known in the 70’s or 80’s.

        The possibility of emissions having an effect was widely known to anyone with knowledge of basic chemistry and physics. I knew about it, but I did not take it seriously. I learned how wrong I was when I took my first courses in geophysics, on my own, out of interest, at Binghamton University.

        However, the government knew this quite well, both in Congress and in the Executive, and had been warned and cautioned repeatedly.

        (Figure courtesy of Our Children’s Trust.)

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Redsky is correct, Quacky. You’re not.

          CO2 levels remained stable for 1000’s of years until the Industrial Revolution. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that they started to ramp up, with the level in 1960 being ~315 ppm, only 40 ppm higher than it was 120 years before in 1840.

          Those of us who were more aware than you of “the possibility of emissions having an effect” were worried about more visible and imminent threats back then—-dirty air and dirty water, toxic industrial waste, lead in gasoline and paint, DDT, acid rain, the ozone hole, resource depletion, overpopulation, SST’s, nuclear power, and more.

          It wasn’t until the 1980’s and Hansen that we began to pay attention to GHG, and the near 100 ppm rise in ~60 years from 1960 until today, which is ~5 times the rate of increase before 1960.

          Not sure what your point is with “the government had been warned and cautioned repeatedly”. That’s not news, and it’s water over the dam anyway. Or is it just that you like to hear yourself quack?

          • ecoquant Says:

            @dumboldguy, @redskylite,

            And there were others. Note the date: 1938.

            Better, 1896. Yeah, and that’s the Arrhenius.

          • ecoquant Says:


            Not sure what your point is with “the government had been warned and cautioned repeatedly”. That’s not news, and it’s water over the dam anyway.

            Well, the government continues to deny it had or has any responsibility to deal with the problem, whether under Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, or Trump, whether with Democratic or Republican controlled Congresses. That attitude might convince some people that government might not be a good bet to fix this.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            So, who IS going to fix it? Oh, wait—-I know—-the free market that gave us the problem in the first place! Government is our only hope at this point.

          • ecoquant Says:


            Thank you for your comment.

            So, who IS going to fix it? Oh, wait—-I know—-the free market that gave us the problem in the first place!

            I’m hoping that the judiciary, via the Public Trust doctrine, might force the government to fix this. Professor Mary Wood’s book, Nature’s Trust, makes it very clear that Executive branch agencies entrusted with the preservation of the natural world become a licensing mechanism for permitting its wholesale destruction, in large measure, as you imply, by the “free market forces” leaning upon government. But that behavior appears ingrained in the Executive, and it doesn’t know how or what else to do without a guiding constraint. They’d do it, in other words, even without the lobbying lean, simply because there are non-business, non-corporate constituencies out there who don’t like to be constrained. Plenty of examples in the book. The American University Law Review article is a good synopsis.

            But, there is an aspect to notions of harm in case law which suggests that if a condition is shared by a large population, and, in this case, all the population, there is no standing to sue. The harm must be differentiated and special. This aspect is what darkens my view of this avenue. If we get that far, the other darkening comes from the likelihood that the remedy Juliana seeks would be granted in a form which has any resemblance to the original.

            As I have said publicly,

            For should the plaintiffs of Juliana fail, the last government branch, the judiciary, abdicates responsibility for solving this urgent problem. And so the Constitution will have failed one of its existential requirements: To provide for the common defense. For Nature has laws, too, and we have been breaking them for a long time, ever more intensely. But Nature does not have courts of grievance or redress. Nature just acts. In a catastrophic sea level rise, perhaps triggered by a collapse of a distant ice sheet, Moakley Courthouse itself, the land you stand on would be lost, and all that there [City of Boston]. While disappointing, were Juliana to be overturned, this should not be a reason for despair. It would not mean the Constitution should be replaced. It would just mean it is useless for solving certain kinds of critically important problems. Its failure would imply the Constitution is becoming a dusty, old thing, irrelevant, like the Articles of Confederation are to us, a ceremonial relic. Let’s hope not.

            There will be solutions for solving climate in any case, Constitution or not. They may well be horrifically expensive. And, while there’s no solution without first zeroing emissions, solutions will exist. These will lie beyond the Constitution, I hope Chief Justice Roberts and his colleagues understand the import of that.

            Solutions “beyond the Constitution” are solutions where global economic interests decide that climate change must be stopped, for their business is being harmed and their wealth is being lost. The “free market” is no more monolithic than any other group or section of human behavior or collective, and for every company which profits from sale of fossil fuels and use of atmosphere for sewer, there are three or more which simply use them as a means to an end. If a product harms during its use, and the buyer is not forewarned, the buyer, whether individual or corporation, has every right to pursue damages from the purveyor. Beyond that, the buyers have every motivation to band together with the similarly harmed and devise a means of fixing the situation.

            The trouble, of course, is to the degree these remedies are extra-governmental and extra-Constitutional, these agents have little opportunity to steer these remedies. They might have steered, by participating early on, but the governments, listening to @Gingerbaker’s “Us” chose to pursue the comfortable, uncontroversial paths. To the extent governments cannot fix the problem without the consortium of collective buyers, they’re stuck. This is unfortunate. But this is what happens when fundamental responsibilities are repudiated.

            Professor Dan Farber has recently offered his opinion of the status of Juliana. He’s an attorney. I’m not.

        • redskylite Says:

          ecoquant – I feel your reply is a tad arrogant, I for one left school at 15 and never had the opportunity to study such subjects as Blackbody in Physics or vibrating molecules involved in the GHG effect. Not until I was well into my 60’s, also when you agree blame the “we the people” on the mess we are in now, do you include the billions who live without electricity and personal transport. Do you blame the Pacific Islanders who do not use cars. Very arrogant reply indeed. And yes I’m very upset with the latest news, as we should be.

          “Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate that it may have reached a “tipping point,” and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study” published on Monday.

          “I think it is happening….And I think it’s bad news,”

          • redskylite Says:

            Greenland’s ice melting faster than scientists previously thought – study

            The pace of ice loss has increased four-fold since 2003 as enormous glaciers are depositing ever larger chunks of ice into the Atlantic ocean, where it melts, causing sea levels to rise


            Greenland ice melting rapidly, study finds
            Southwest part of the country could be major contributor to sea level rise


          • dumboldguy Says:

            Redsky—-NEVER apologize to anyone for the fact that had to leave school early. You have more than made up for it with your later studies and are as “smart” about climate change as many of us here with degrees in science. I, for one, particularly admire the depth of feeling you bring to the discussions here—-you care, which is more than can be said about ecoquack, who cares only for the sound of his own voice. In particular, NEVER EVER apologize for anything to an arrogant piece of s**t like ecoquack. You’ve got his number, and we agree on his “arrogance”.

            Quacky is also a LYING piece of s**t, and reminds me of our so-called president when it comes to alternate facts. I took a look at his website just now, and he has posted a long string of bullshit there that he is waiting to have posted on Crock. He quotes ME there, which is laughable since he banned me from his site a few weeks back for merely disagreeing with him.

            He has also posted a loooooong list of rules for posting there, among which those below. The ONLY operative rule he goes by is the last one—-he really wants a place where he can hear himself talk and admire how smart he is, not one where debate takes place.

            “I will never delete a comment without first simply holding it for moderation, and approaching the commenter, asking them to revise it, or explaining why I am holding it.

            “Ultimately, as has happened, a commenter who abuses the rules will be banned from participation.

            “In the end, I reserve the right to determine what’s appropriate here or not. This is my blog. I pay for it. There is no subsidy or advertising that helps pay for it”.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            PS Forgot to mention that I was not properly quoted by ecoquack on his blog, in that he cherry-picked only part of my words, a habit of his that he will NOT allow you to question him on—unless you want to be banned because it’s “his blog” etc. What he said on his blog:

            [From a fellow Commentor:]

            “So, who IS going to fix it? Oh, wait—-I know—-the free market that gave us the problem in the first place!”

            Quacky left off “Government is our only hope at this point”.

  2. ecoquant Says:


    We all knew this. Don’t try to lay the blame for this on Exxon. We have met the enemy, and they are Us.

    I heartily agree.

  3. […] is a replica of a comment I made at another site. As of 23:55 EST on 21st January, it hasn’t been release from moderation. Perhaps the […]

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