On today's BradCast, first, a number of breaking news items, including Shell Oil coming up dry and calling an end (for now) to their misadventurous quest for oil in the otherwise pristine Arctic; NASA announcing the discovery of flowing liquid water on Mars, allowing for the possibility of human travel to the planet; And Presidents Obama and Putin both addressing the U.N. General Assembly, offering conflicting assessments of the worsening crisis in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Then, I'm joined by Neela Banerjee, investigative journalist at Inside Climate News, to discuss the Pulitzer Prize winning organization's explosive new series of reports revealing that Exxon's scientists had confirmed the catastrophic effects of man-made global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels as long ago as 1977. But, rather than continue their work on that finding, they turned tail in an attempt to obscure their own science with the massive funding of climate change denial front groups.
"In the '70s and '80s they really wanted to be seen as a leader in climate research because they understood the implications of climate change for their business as a fossil fuel producer," Banerjee explains. She says Exxon "thought that the best way to shape whatever policies would emerge to limit fossil fuel emissions…was do really good science and have a seat at the table. That's obviously different from the approach they started taking in 1989."
Banerjee, formerly a New York Times reporter and now co-author of Inside Climate's multi-part series based on months of digging into four decades of company documents and interviews with former Exxon scientists and other employees, goes on to explain the known circumstances of the company's sudden about-face to become a major funding source for the denialist movement.
"Even before the question of CO2 appeared on the scene and started to shape their thinking about continuing to produce fossil fuels, Exxon was already starting to think of potentially becoming a diversified energy company," she tells me, detailing the company's early work on lithium ion batteries, solar and nuclear energy and even hybrid cars. "Exxon had this mindset that they were not just wedded to oil and gas."
But then, with a drop in oil prices, things changed, including leadership at the company. Exxon began discussing "uncertainty and kept cherry-picking quotes from scientists to say that there was too much that was unclear to warrant enormous action on cutting back fossil fuels and changing our economy." In other words, they knew, they denied, and they didn't seem to care.
I also ask Banerjee about the lack of corporate mainstream media coverage of her remarkable series — (even MSNBC has failed to cover it) — and she describes how its even worse than I had realized. We also discuss whether Exxon (and other Big Oil entities) might face legal liability for obscuring the known harm caused by their products in the same way that Big Tobacco eventually did.
Lots of revealing conversation on all of that and more on today's BradCast…
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