Tillerson Dodges Discussing Who Knew What When about ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Deceive the Public on Climate Change

Jerri-Lynn here:  The incoming Trump administration is dominated by climate change skeptics, such as Scott Pruitt, the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. While serving in his former role as attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, Pruitt filed lawsuits to block various EPA policies such as the Clean Power Plan.

This Real News Network interview with Kathy Mulvey, the accountability campaign manager and advocate for the Climate and Energy Team at the Union of Concerned Scientists, discusses the significance of recent developments in investigations launched by state attorneys general– in California, Massachusetts, and New York– into ExxonMobil’s efforts to deceive the public about its research on climate change.

The  interview also covers Rex Tillerson’s successful dodge of a question during hearings to consider his nomination as Secretary of State about who at ExxonMobil knew what when concerning the company’s history of promoting and funding climate science denial, despite its internal awareness of the reality of climate change.  Watch the clip below.


KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.

The legal investigation into what Exxon knew about climate change and when they knew it took a turn on Wednesday when a Massachusetts judge ruled that ExxonMobil must turn over 40 years’ worth of internal documents related to its research on climate change to State Attorney General Maura Healey.

Now, Healey, along with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, began their probes last year after several investigative stories published last year revealed the Exxon knew about climate change for decades, and they intentionally worked to mislead investors and the public about the risks — and all the while the confirmation hearings for the appointment of now former CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State were also taking place on Wednesday.

With us to discuss the Exxon case and what the ruling yesterday may mean is Kathy Mulvey. Kathy is the accountability campaign manager and advocate for the Climate and Energy Team at the Union of Concerned Scientists. She is the lead author on the recently released in-depth analysis titled “The Climate Accountability Scorecard: Ranking Major Fossil Fuel Companies on Climate Deception, Disclosure and Action”. Kathy, welcome back to The Real News.

KATHY MULVEY: Hi, Kim. Thanks a lot for having me.

KIM BROWN: Kathy, what do we know about what Exxon knew about their activities and the effects on climate change based on the investigative reports released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Inside Climate Change and the Los Angeles Times?

KATHY MULVEY: We know that, actually, Exxon was conducting cutting-edge climate science decades ago and was aware of the risks of climate change, potentially catastrophic risks of climate change, and yet instead of revamping its business model to affect that threat and that reality, the company chose instead to embark of a decades-long campaign of disinformation about climate science.

KIM BROWN: Kathy, let’s take a look at this clip of Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, now the nominee to be Secretary of State under President-elect Donald Trump, as this is what he was seeming to be dodging questions from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine on the Exxon climate change allegations. Let’s take a look.

(video clip)

TIM KAINE: Are these conclusions about ExxonMobil’s history of promoting and funding climate science denial, despite its internal awareness of the reality of climate change, during your tenure with the company true or false?

REX TILLERSON: Senator, since I’m no longer with ExxonMobil, I’m in no position to speak on their behalf. The question would have to be put to them.

TIM KAINE: I’m not asking you to speak on ExxonMobil’s behalf. I’m asking you whether those allegations about ExxonMobil’s knowledge of climate science and decision to fund and promote a view contrary to its awareness of the science, whether those allegations are true of false.

REX TILLERSON: The question would have to be put to ExxonMobil.

TIM KAINE: And let me ask you, do you lack the knowledge to answer my question or are you refusing to answer my question?

REX TILLERSON: A little of both.

AUDIENCE: (laughter)

(end video clip)

KIM BROWN: Kathy, that’s a little bit of funny and unfunny all at the same time. So what do you make of Tillerson’s answers to the Senate Committee today?

KATHY MULVEY: Shock. I was in the room for that. That was absolutely shocking. I mean, if he’s… here’s a guy who wants to be our next Secretary of State. If he’s refusing to answer questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that’s outrageous. And if he’s claiming that he lacks knowledge of the strategy of the company that he left just a week ago on climate change, well, that is also shocking. And if he’s claiming that he doesn’t know about how this company chose to attempt to really secure business as usual for its fossil fuel products against evidence of their potential risks to our climate and their impacts on our climate, then you really gotta wonder how did he keep his job as CEO for 10 years?

KIM BROWN: Kathy, tell us about the ruling yesterday by a Massachusetts judge. I mean, what does this mean for the case against ExxonMobil, and what do you think 40 years’ worth of internal documents might reveal?

KATHY MULVEY: Yeah. So, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has been investigating whether ExxonMobil violated any laws by deceiving its consumers and shareholders and the public about climate change. And it’s her duty to do that. It’s her duty to uphold consumer protection and other shareholder protection laws of the State of Massachusetts. And this ruling really affirms her right and her duty to do that, and it means that ExxonMobil, which is going forward under new CEO Darren Woods, will have to be accountable for the company’s ongoing actions to spread disinformation on climate change.

KIM BROWN: ExxonMobil has cited a political conspiracy when it tried to quash a subpoena from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on whether the oil giant mislead investors on climate risk, and Exxon also has cases now pending against Maura Healey and against Eric Schneiderman, so is there a conspiracy against ExxonMobil on the part of these Attorneys General?

KATHY MULVEY: No. These Attorneys General are doing their job and, in fact, fraud is not a protected activity by companies, and it’s not… it runs counter to… Rex Tillerson yesterday was talking about accountability, and the importance of accountability. What we see here is a company that is attempting to thwart means to hold it accountable to the public, that is refusing to disclose really important and vital information that the public has a right to know and that our officials who are charged with enforcing our laws have a right to know.

KIM BROWN: Congressman Lamar Smith, who is the Chairman of the House Science Committee, subpoenaed the two States Attorneys General that I mentioned earlier, Healey and Schneiderman, to obtain records of their investigations. And Smith also subpoenaed eight environmental organizations and legal groups — including yours, Kathy, the Union of Concerned Scientists. So, as much as you’re able to talk about that, how is that going?

KATHY MULVEY: Sure. I mean, we see Congressman Smith’s attack as an abuse of power and really an attempt to bully and intimidate the State Public Prosecutors and groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists that are carrying out our public interest mission. We’re not going to be intimidated. We’re going to continue to ensure that officials like Maura Healey in Massachusetts and Eric Schneiderman in New York have access to the best available science on which to really make determinations about the conduct of companies like ExxonMobil.

KIM BROWN: In terms of the future of possible censorship of climate science under the Trump administration, what can we do to guard against that?

KATHY MULVEY: Well, it’s really important to continue to stand up for science and to push back against efforts to intimidate and to potentially… we’ve seen concerning efforts like questionnaires out to the Department of Energy and other departments, and so it’s going to be really critically important in, for example, the State Department, if Rex Tillerson is confirmed as our Secretary of State, that the public continues to hold our officials to account and that the leadership role that the U.S. has played on climate change is bolstered, and that we don’t backtrack.

KIM BROWN: All right. We’ve been speaking with Kathy Mulvey. She is the Accountability Campaign Manager and an advocate for the Climate and Energy Team at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A Massachusetts judge ruled on Wednesday that Exxon, in fact, does have to turn over 40 years’ worth of internal documents to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey as a result of her investigation into what the company knew and when they knew it about the effects of their product, oil and gas, on climate change and global warming. Kathy, as always we appreciate having you on. Thank you.

KATHY MULVEY: Thanks a lot, Kim.

KIM BROWN: And thanks for watching The Real News Network.

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  1. Josh Stern

    Thanks for writing this. I want to underline the features that make it a good example: 1) Democrats and the liberal press are going hard after Trump and some of his appointees at the moment, 2) Tillerson is nominally supposed to be a political & ideological opponent, 3) Tillerson is not yet approved – this process is supposed to be about whether he is a suitable nominee, 4) the Senate continues in the same tradition of showing that their actual oversite and supervision of the Exec branch/CIA/FBI/military is basically a pretend, non-existent joke, and 5) the supposedly liberal, oppositional media will not cover the serious angles of the story. They will spend endless pages on “words that can never hurt me”, but rarely utter a peep about the actual sticks and stones of the everyday undermining of representative democracy in the USA.

    Let’s make the press all about his is a bigot and who spends quality time with their family, and let the big boys have their propaganda, their back room deals, their endless wars, their false flag attacks, their support of large numbers of terrorist groups…(esp. the CIA itself…)

  2. diptherio

    Oh man, this sucks…’cause we were this close to really doing something serious about climate change. If only we would have elected that fracking lobbyist from the other party, I’m sure we’d be way better off now. Maybe if every international climate change conference was nothing more than a sick joke, where everyone makes pretty noises about changing things but never actually does anything, then this wouldn’t be so bad. Then, maybe, I could just shake my head and say “more of the same,” but shoot, we were really making some serious efforts at reigning in our fossil fuel consumption in this country. [/sarc]

    1. HopeLB

      I agee! The only thing that gave us a temporary reprieve from the poison- more-air- water fracking boom was artificially low oil prices. Were they made low by the Saudis in collaboration with the US, to hurt Russia, Venezuela? Is that why Hillary was out pushing fracking on the world? To help out the frackers hurting here? Everyone seems to be back to buying large vehicles.

    2. jrs

      We weren’t doing enough on climate change, and the only time global fossil fuel uses went down was after the recession of 2008. Most climate change agreements weren’t doing near enough, and some of the previous ones were outright derailed by the U.S.. However there were some provisions of the Clean Air act supported by Obama that did some good. We are not going to be better off having straight out climate skeptics in the Fed gov.

    3. TheBellTolling

      So? People should still oppose the appointment of an Exxon lackey. Pointing out the current government’s bad record is pointless here. Unless you just don’t care and need an excuse to defend this appointment.

  3. craazyman

    If anybody wants to look into intimidation, bullying, abuse of power and climate science denial they ought to look at treatment received by many highly credentialed, serious, unbiased scientists who don’t buy the mainstream dogma. It’s not pretty.

    And it’s not a repudation of clean, green energy — which should be massively supported and incentivized on enviornmental and air quality grounds alone.

    The liberull witch hunts seem to find witches wherever they need to find them.

    Sad to see this stuff on NC. If somebody looked at it with the same thoroughness and thoughtffullness regularly applied to analyzing financial system phenomenon, it priobably wouldn’t be here.

    You can lose your integrity without even realizing it sometimes. People should be careful about what they’re willing to get vicious about. Not everybody has the WMDs you’re told they have.

    This one is worth a read, just to see who the “denialists” are. I’m sure some DC politician liberull or some Hollywood personality knows more than these folks (yeah right) . .


    I almost feel like sending Mr. Tillerson a sympathy card. Anyway, that’s my spout off for the day.

    1. Vatch

      It’s very sad that anyone would receive death threats, and the article points out that scientists on both ends of the climate change spectrum have received such threats.

      Interestingly, two of the scientists discussed in the article are not specialists in climate at all. One, Bjorn Lomborg, is a political science statistician, and as such, really isn’t a scientist at all. Another, William Happer, according to Wikipedia, is an expert in atomic physics and optics, and has done work that led to a DARPA project. I’m skeptical about the claim that there is a large underground of scientists who believe that global warming is either a hoax or is something that we can ignore.

    2. Kilgore Trout

      Curry, Lindzen, Hopper, and other prominent climate science deniers mentioned in your link are not “unbiased” scientists searching for the truth. These 3 cannot fairly be described even as “skeptical”. They have long been prominent “guns for hire” for fossil fuels interests. Hopper is not a climate scientist. The semi-retired Lindzen’s scientific work for at least the last decade is seen as weak and unsupported by the evidence. Curry has long been unproductive, and recently resigned from her university position, perhaps to take a more lucrative position in private industry.

      1. craazyman

        It’s hard to tell who is real and who’s a fake! There’s lots of others besides these. There’s lots of believers too. There’s lots of them all over the place. If they know the data, the math and the model structurre — I respect their opinion whatevver it may be.

        When. I channel global warming — which I did several times about 4 years ago — it always came to me as a phantom. My theory, which is probably more quackish even than the most die hard denialist — is that global warming fear is an unconscious projection of the dissoance produced in the collective consiousness by globalization. it’s an overflow of eros energy expressing itself as metaphor. A very similar thing happened in the cold war with the fear of a new ice age. At any rate, i’m not a candidate for the National Academyt of Sciences so I don’t worry too much. But I do believe i am right and about 150 years ahead of my time in terms of my theories. Althhough I have to givve credit to Jung, Freud et. Al. And many others. I didn’t make it up all by myself. I channeled it abouut 4 or 5 times and the consistency of.the feedback signal wass rather surprising.

        1. Yves Smith

          There is not “opinion all over the place” There is as strong a scientific consensus on global warming as you will ever see in a bona fide scientific discipline. The noisemakers against it are almost without exception not in that field and get way too much media attention despite their lack of relevant expertise. Boldface mine:

          The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report stated that:

          • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as evidenced by increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, the widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.[6]
          •Most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to human activities.[7]
          • Benefits and costs of climate change for [human] society will vary widely by location and scale.[8] Some of the effects in temperate and polar regions will be positive and others elsewhere will be negative.[8] Overall, net effects are more likely to be strongly negative with larger or more rapid warming.[8]
          • The range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.[9]
          • The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g. flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification) and other global change drivers (e.g. land-use change, pollution, fragmentation of natural systems, over-exploitation of resources).[10]

          Some scientific bodies have recommended specific policies to governments, and science can play a role in informing an effective response to climate change. Policy decisions, however, may require value judgements and so are not included in the scientific opinion.[11][12]

          No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from any of these main points.….

          A 2013 paper in Environmental Research Letters reviewed 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers matching “global warming” or “global climate change”. They found 4,014 which discussed the cause of recent global warming, and of these “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”.


          Lest I remind you that Exxon was trying to buy climate science opposition during the IPCC? The first part is a long quote from the Guardian:

          Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

          Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

          Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

          The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

          The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees.

          The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN’s panel as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work” and ask for essays that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.

          Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the “overwhelming scientific evidence” on global warming. “It’s a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims,” said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

          “The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice,” he said….

          The contents of the IPCC report have been an open secret since the Bush administration posted its draft copy on the internet in April. It says there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C this century, depending on emissions.

          Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific institute, said: “The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that ‘business as usual’ would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise.”

          Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration’s intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they’ve got left is a suitcase full of cash.”

          On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.

          A short, but wise comment on this sorry affair by Felix Salmon in RGEmonitor:

          What annoys me is the way in which the IPCC report, which is truly the gold standard for any scientific project, is criticised as though it were the work of a small group of cranks. None of its critics really take its methodologies and results seriously, as opposed to deciding at the outset that it must be wrong – probably because if they did, then they wouldn’t be nearly as critical.


          1. Josh Stern

            All of the above is true. But IMO the scientists should be open and speak plainly to the public about that last little bit of the argument. I mean a) the Earth is warming, b) CO2 emissions are contributing to that, c) the Earth has warmed a lot in the past for other reasons, d)…the CO2 emissions are what fraction of the current warming force, and how does science really know that?

            Is true rational position on d) “Big factor, we really know this” or is the position “It’s more prudent not to take chances with this”? Either way, it would be helpful for the public to see clearer explanations that come from sources with no economic bias in the direction of the answer.

            1. Atypical

              The scientific community that is involved with climate science has had an ongoing internal conversation about their overall lack of involvement in public debates, especially about the many “changes” in the research as they occur.

              Scientists largely prefer to do their talking in journals and other academic settings but they have come to realize that they need to be more available to the public generally lest the deniers control the dialogue, as they frequently do now.

              The information you claim to want to see is available in many places for those truly interested. Another easy way is to read the deniers BS and then review real data at an objective and authoritative climate site to see how the deniers twist and misrepresent the data.

              Start here.


              1. Josh Stern

                Than you for the link. There is a section there on Climate Science. The most recent relevant paper I noted was this one: http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2016-42/esd-2016-42.pdf

                At a glance, I have a few Qs about it.

                Q1: In Fig. 6(b), p. 11 – It notes that the maximum correlation between change in atmospheric CO2 and change in recorded temperature has CO2 *lagging* change in temperature by several months. If CO2 change was the cause of change in temperature, shouldn’t it be leading in time rather than lagging? Lagging seems more consistent with causation in the other direction or some other common causes for both.

                Q2: The charts show that there was a big spike in temperature in the early 1940s, while they did not notice a spike in CO2 emissions at that time. So that mini-hockey stick seemed not to be CO2 related. Other explanations?

                I’m looking for a paper that says temperature change due to CO2 is much more important than temperature change due to increased heat release from activity or increased absorption of solar radiation due to human development, buildout, farming, deforestation, and shrinking snow/ice cover. Do you know which papers are considered key for making that case?

                1. Atypical

                  I’ve debated many like you, and know from your MO you are not interested in the actual science. Rather, you are interested in picking nits and asking for relevant papers in the hope that there are none readily at hand and that that would make it appear you are “right.”

                  If you were really interested in the actual supportive science you would spend all your time at reputable sites and not debate on sites like this. You’re just here to throw spitballs and see what sticks.

                  Be fruitful and multiply – but not in those words.

                  1. Josh Stern

                    I’m not debating….I explained the points I’m not clear on and asked for any helpful explanations. You sounded like you had some expertise, so I asked if you can clarify where it is that one is supposed to find the clarifications/solutions.

                    In general, I believe there are a lot of received bits of wisdom in society & even in science that turn out to be wrong. A few years back, dieticians were saying high carb diets were good for weight loss, and then it turned out that wasn’t true. They had some theory behind those earlier claims, but it wasn’t the correct theory.

                    In climate change science, it’s probably true that there are insincere people poking holes for commercial reasons. But it’s also true that if changes in warming are not mainly being driven by CO2, then it would be harmful for guarding our future to put all our effort into focusing on a wrong or suboptimal conservation technique. I’m not claiming any special insight. I’m just asking where one can see the best argument in order to have an informed view.

            2. wilroncanada

              Reply Atypical
              One of the IPCC scientists is an elected member of the legislature of British Columbia for the Green Party. He has spoken probably hundreds of times, in phrases and using graphics that most ordinary people can understand. I attended one of his talks at the local library. Perhaps in Canada we are lucky that, in spite of the previous Prime Minister’s effort to silence and thwart science that did not support his corporate backers, there is a level of real freedom of speech here, on this topic at least, not available in the United States. The US chill is likely the result of head-office corporate pressure, and the problem that most research is at least partly corporate financed and sponsored.

              During the presentation I attended, he outlined that the information presented in simplified form to the public was the most conservative of three possible scenarios. We seem at the moment to be on the path to the most dangerous.

          2. craazyman

            There’s a lot actually. These people can’t all be cranks, bought and paid for by some fossil fuel compamy. I admit I’m a crank but nobody pays me a penny for my opinion — probably for obvious reasons. Channeling isn’t the most credible form of knowledge acquisition. I admit that and don’t wish to come across as if I think it’s unimpeachable.

            But these people, i don’t know it makes me wonder . . .


            There’s quite a lot of serious people on that list with a variety of opinions about the phenomenon. It just makes me wonder.

            But this comment thread is getting to be like Dueling Banjos in Deliverance & I think I’m the dude on the porch with the narrow eyes and head like a space alien. I can’t remember who the guitar player was, but I remember the gas station and Burt Reynolds and the guy who pumped the gas — he actually looked veery British, like a member of a Victorian era mens club if he hadn’t had overalls on pumping gas. It’s weird how context frames perception.

            1. craazyman

              something apropos and amusing just occured to me.

              what if you replaced “scientific” with “economic”?

              You wrote a book that took on the economic consensus and your website does on a daily basis. You did a deep, expert dive & you came up with your own very learned opinions that carry alot of weight and persuasion. And the reason they do is because you know your shlt inside and out.

              the “scientific community” may be 100% correct on AGW. But the most strident and violent opinions seem to be held by those who wouldn’t know mathematical statistics from the fine print on a toothpaste tube or model structure and architecture from a dog bowl.

              It is interesting to see the variety of people who don’t fall in line and why. it’s not so simple.

              The deep dive is really a prerequisite for having a thoughtful informed opinion. So few are able, but so many just believe what their prejudices tell them to believe. ecce homo sed Fred

              1. Atypical

                craazyman, 7:30 pm

                “The deep dive is really a prerequisite for having a thoughtful informed opinion.”

                You just described authoritative (real) climate scientists – the 97% + who see the ongoing research as conclusive…as opposed to the unqualified naysayers, like …

              2. skippy


                Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

                The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers.

                Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly—some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it.

                Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, historians of science, roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.


                Its interesting that you use the example of economic [science ™ ] above wrt your thoughts on AGW [a tax or diminishment on/of certain camps beliefs aka freedoms and liberty]. The so called denier or skeptic camps have a propensity for being funded by or organized by ridged ideological camps in the guise of economic camps or schools. This would also seem to be highlighted by the book ‘Science Mart’ where increased monetization and privatizing academia, makes the activities of the agents in ‘Merchants of Doubt’ et al, with the self awarded gravitas these factors enable, an unwarranted friction on discovery and what it portends.

                One would think the unpacking of economics over the last 100, but more accurately the last 40ish years on this blog alone should negate the efforts of those that spend more time and energy on sophist wanking than demonstrable methodology.

                Disheveled…. its not hard to understand the increase in energy – present – from geology to atmospheric mass – globally – and its potential.

    3. FluffytheObeseCat

      Look you are often wise on finance matters, and often funny about them. But you are spouting oil wealth-funded dogma about the way climate science functions, about the way scientists pursue the truth, and about the power of money, even within academic and national labs.

      No noticeable contingent of climate scientists promote the denialist “viewpoint”, because the data keep coming back against it. There are massive funding opportunities for those who might choose to promote an anti-warming theory, yet the few who do it are rare – and notably not experts in any subfield of climate science, but (often elderly) “free market” ideologues from other disciplines. Who have the clout to spout, and who need not write anything peer reviewed in order to get away with it. (And peer-review is not a deal breaker for established scientists. They get published, if they document their work, even when it’s counter the narrative.)

      Increases in greenhouse gasses are causing heating of the atmosphere, erratic weather, coastal flooding and acidification of ocean waters. The increase is a function of human activity and we can change it. Change is technically and financially within our power.

      It may not be politically however. Not here. My expectation is that over the next 2 decades, the ultra-pragmatic manufacturing powers of East Asia will switch to renewable (and nuclear) power. While doing so, they will continue their rise to world leadership. Particularly China, although the entire region will do so.

      During that time, our Republican dominated governments will actively pursue anti-clean power agendas. We will sink in influence and economic strength in tandem with their effort, mainly for reasons that have little to do with it. However, our turn away from (even modest) carbon mitigation will look like a factor in our loss of status. We will not be terribly poor. Just Argentine. Or maybe Polish. We will become gently disregarded. Like the British after WWII.

      Our loss will be the world’s gain. The human race will muddle along, although it will face some severe impacts and mass migration away from present-day coastal plains. Today’s middle-aged English-language blog commentariat will be dead by then. A handful of early 21st century history scholars in university in West Shanghai may read our shit – in translation – and cite it in studies documenting the manifest flaws of the culture which produced it.

      1. Synoia

        although it will face some severe impacts and mass migration away from present-day coastal plains…..history scholars in university in West Shangha

        I misread that as Shanghai. I’m now off the Mr Google to find out about Shangha . I would have chosen Peking or Lhasa.

    4. Optimader

      RT answered tbe question correctly.

      Any anguish should be reserved for the calibre of elected representatives we are stuck with that are congenitally unable to properly frame a line of questioning.
      They are pathetic

      1. Vatch

        What was wrong with Kaine’s question? He explicitly said that he did not expect Tillerson to speak on behalf of Exxon Mobil, yet Tillerson still dodged the question. Tillerson spent 41 years as an Exxon (later Exxon Mobil) employee, 10 of them as the CEO. He knows what was happening with Exxon Mobil’s public deception, and he could have easily answered the question. What is pathetic about our elected representatives is that they have not begun contempt of Congress proceedings against Tillerson.

  4. Dave

    Unfortunate timing for this post…

    What could be the worst ice storm in 10 years began Friday in the central U.S., as forecasters warned it will unload freezing rain on a 1,000-mile swath from the central Plains to the mid-Atlantic over the weekend.

    Europe Plunges into Deep Freeze

    Solar variability and the Earth’s climate

    Diminishing solar activity may bring new Ice Age by 2030

    Is there a way to bet against global warming? Because (in all seriousness) I would go b@ll5 deep on that trade.

    1. jrs

      I suppose with stocks one can sometimes win by being a super contrarian and with climate change the exact effects it will have especially on any given locale are not so easily predicted. A giant meteor might also hit reducing global climate change, your forgot that one!! It could also bring mass death of it’s own and cause one’s stock portfolio to be the least of one’s concerns, but hey it could happen …

      Meanwhile in the world of what actually IS happening, and not all that theoretically could happen, a cold north America and a cold Europe are really insignificant climatically compared to one is going on at the poles, temperatures 40 degrees above normal for long stretches.

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      Harsh and erratic swings in weather are a part of global warming. The are not proof against it. Especially not in the northern temperate latitudes.

    3. oliverks

      I am not a climate scientist, but the evidence presented to me seems extremely compelling. Any real climate scientist please jump in, if I am saying something that is not factual.

      Here is the sketch of the proof that we have global warming.

      1) The most common substance with the highest thermal mass is water. In fact it is more than rock, most metals, air, sand, …
      2) The surface of the earth is mainly covered with water
      3) Water is a good conductor of heat (that’s why cold water causes hypothermia so quickly) and it also mixes via tides and currents.

      So if you want to know if the earth is getting warmer or cooler you measure ocean temperatures. People from many different organizations have been doing that for decades (approaching centuries in some places). The data is unequivocal. The water is getting hotter on average.

      Now the question is why?

      We know from lab experiments that CO2 is a good greenhouse gas. That is, it traps heat. So increases in CO2 will cause heat to become trapped in the earth atmosphere.

      We have been measuring CO2 levels for more than 1/2 a century. They go up and down with the seasons, but the year to year average is relentlessly rising. Hence we trap more heat each year as witnessed by ocean temperatures.

      Where is the CO2 coming from?

      The short answer is a combination of things. Fossil fuels produce lots of CO2. You can calculate pretty accurately how many ppm the current burn rate is adding. Unfortunately, as the earth is warming, we know the oceans will start releasing more CO2 (cold water traps CO2 better than warm water), so now we are seeing effects of trapped CO2 being released as well.

      To me at this stage, as a casual observer, the evidence that global warming is real, is being caused by greenhouse gases, seems extraordinarily compelling.

      Maybe my eyes have been closed, but I have not seen any strong scientific counter arguments. So, if someone can post a cogent argument that the earth is not warming up, or CO2 is not the cause of the earth warming up, I am definitely interested in reading it.

      1. susan the other

        The most recent NOAA data was explained thusly: Yes the oceans are warming – the human dump of CO2 is partially absorbed by the oceans and this turns into carbolic(?) acid and ruins the ocean ecosystems which are critical to survival on earth – but the actual warming is caused by the rest of the CO2 going into the atmosphere, where it warms the entire planet including the oceans. As an aside we also deal with weather. Which seems to be confirming that when the Gulf Stream gets too warm we get serious bad weather – and we are all seeing it this winter; so is the EU; so is the ME; probably Russia too but they know how to cope. We will be both warmer and wetter, but since we still have a thing called “winter” we will get some very nasty weather like ever before – that’s my guess. And as irony would have it, we are going to need fossil fuels to mitigate this weather mess with snow plows, etc.

            1. Nakatomi Plaza

              If you google the title you get a list of results. The problem is, all of the results seem to link to blatantly anti-climate change sites and polemical blogs, so there probably isn’t much point in investigating the claims made against the NOAA. We’ve all been down this road before, and 100% of the time the claims are bullshit. I know that sounds lazy, but what’s the point? The fossil fuels industry has been waging a misinformation campaign, so it’s quite safe to assume everything they say is misinformation. Every single time I’ve taken the time to confirm these sorts of stories they’re always wrong.

              Dave, you should be embarrassed. You’re using the same lazy, debunked arguments that have been made over and over again against global warming for the past fifteen years. Come up with something new.

    4. Vatch

      Ice storms occur when a portion of the atmosphere is too warm to allow snow to reach the ground. An ice storm hardly invalidates the evidence of global warming. In fact, it’s evidence in favor of global warming.

      Europe is supposed to be cold in the winter, whether there’s global warming or not. And if the Greenland ice sheet keeps melting, the fresh meltwater could interfere with the thermo-haline circulation of the Gulf Stream, which would make Europe and eastern Canada colder for decades or centuries to come. That’s a possible paradoxical effect of global warming — regional cooling.

      1. Dave

        Ice storms result from Warming. …O… K..!

        Anyway, you’re ignoring the articles on decreased solar output.

        Seriously, I wish I could sell global warming insurance. It’s the perfect product: People benefit from peace of mind, and it’s pure profit.

        1. pretzelattack

          the solar output has decreased, iirc, and the temperature has increased. not one major science organization questions the conclusion that in all probability, humans are causing the climate to change. it’s hard to get that kind of agreement in science without solid evidence and a good theory to explain it,especially when you consider that exxon’s own scientists told them decades ago that fossil fuel emissions would cause global warming.

          were the scientists communists who wanted to torpedo their own careers? just as a matter of common sense these scientists were not telling exxon something it wanted to hear. then, exxon dropped the research and hired a public relations firm that had developed the public relations campaign to deny the link between smoking and cancer.

          there isn’t a scientific dispute over what is causing global warming, despite a few outliers and shills (creationists included a few biologists
          in their ranks) claiming that there is. there is a political dispute about what to do about it, and who pays how much to do it. we need to base arguments on that issue on the best evidence, and not give any weight to propaganda paid for by the fossil fuel industry.

          BEST was a study funded by the koch brothers; it included a number of scientists who were skeptical or unconvinced of the science of global warming, including judith curry. after studying the issue, it reached the conclusion that the science was solid.


        2. Vatch

          Ice storms result from Warming. …O… K..!

          When the upper, middle, and lower layers of the atmosphere are cold, and there’s enough moisture, precipitation will be snow. When the upper and lower levels are cold, but the middle layer is warm, the precipitation starts as snow, melts into rain, and freezes on the ground. So yes, in a relatively warm winter, there will be ice storms. In a cold winter, there will be snow storms.

        3. Atypical

          Dave 1/15 3:49 pm

          Dunning–Kruger effect

          The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. The bias was first experimentally observed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University in 1999.

        4. jrs

          what kind of insurance would that be? Insurance against the climate becoming inhospitable to human life on maybe most life on earth? Yea uh regardless of what the neoliberals may say the market doesn’t sell that. Not all problems can be solved by the market believe it or not.

    5. Mark Alexander

      Here in New England, freezing rain is a sign of warmer winters, not colder.

      I’ve been here in Vermont only seven years (after spending 54 years in the SF Bay Area), but I’m already seeing the changes. The first couple of winters I saw had plenty of snow and no rain. Now we’re seeing winters where we get a tiny bit of snow that gets melted off a week later by abnormally warm temperatures and rain, or freezing rain, or what they call “wintry mix” here. The result is severe droughts in summer due to lack of spring runoff replenishing the aquifers. Old-timers here tell me that things are definitely warming up and there’s not much sign of a return to normal. It’s pretty discouraging.

    6. Synoia

      It is called Climate Change for a raesson.

      Climate,Like every other system it is chaotic, and the so is the years by year effects. Some warmer some colder.

      One swallow does not a summer make. Similarly, One temperature change does not a trend make.

    7. Cynthia

      Think of it as climate change, drastic and dire climate change. Then the global warming label won’t be so confusing. Otherwise see the other comments here about wild swings being part of the change (in an overall warming trend).

  5. Northeaster

    “will have to be accountable for the company’s ongoing actions to spread disinformation on climate change.” –

    Good luck on that in court.

    It will look great when Healey runs for Governor, unfortunately she’s just another ideologue, just like our last AG Martha Coakley.

  6. ChrisPacific

    I actually do accept that he can’t be asked to speak on behalf of ExxonMobil, so for example I disagree with this framing:

    What we see here is a company that is attempting to thwart means to hold it accountable to the public, that is refusing to disclose really important and vital information that the public has a right to know

    which might very well be true, but isn’t relevant to the subject at hand (which is Tillerson and his fitness for the State job).

    That said, I don’t accept his argument that questions concerning his time at ExxonMobil should be addressed to the company and that he shouldn’t answer them for that reason. They are relevant to the confirmation hearing. Asking questions about your previous role is a normal practice in job interviews and there are ways of answering them without giving away commercially sensitive information. A CEO would know how to do this, so he is being deliberately obstructive.

    1. sd

      A more relevant question regarding climate might have been, “as Secretary of State, what level of engagement would you use regarding increasing concerns about the earths climate? Smaller nations follow the lead of the US. What role do you see for the United States?”

      It would have been grossly irresponsible for Tillerson to comment on Exxon’s behavior.

  7. Ross

    It is a long time since I read an article full of such dishonest
    spin and disinformation . Is Naked Capitalism now trying to lose its
    own Fake News court case ?

    # The author refers to these people as skeptics ( not convinced
    climate change is serious ) yet then demonizes them for failure
    to support climate fear mongering . You cannot have it both ways.

    # Anybody can join the Union of concerned scientists , just pay the money .
    I understand somebody signed up his dog . Spare me the nonsense that infers
    the UCS is a serious and impartial scientific body . They ain’t .

    # Last year alone over 500 peer reviewed scientific papers questioned
    the validity or seriousness of global warming . The author is living
    in a false reality 20 years behind the pace .

    For heavens sake people stop wallowing in brazen disinformation
    and read up the real state of affairs at a serious climate site like
    that run by the NIPCC .

    1. bob

      Nice try.

      “Heartland’s founder, David Padden, was an early member of the Koch Cartel. In 1977, when the Charles G. Koch Foundation of Wichita rebranded and renamed itself the Cato Institute, David Padden was a founding board member of the new Cato Institute. Padden headed a financial services firm in Chicago, Padden & Co. Chicago is the “heartland” of financial derivatives, the “financial weapons of mass destruction” that are screwing America and the world, so you can imagine the Kochs and Padden had plenty of work in Chicago. ”


    1. lyman alpha blob

      No kidding. Have these people who are so sure climate change isn’t really happening actually looked out the window lately?

  8. Gaylord

    This is the essence of the economic and political system — inherently short-sighted and self serving. Those who have gained vast wealth in their businesses exert the greatest influence on policy. They are the kingpins in a corporate world ruled by money. Their hubris and limitless appetite for more growth will not be curtailed by subservient government functionaries working in regulatory frameworks, let alone by lowly scientists that are only interested in learning and reporting the facts.

    Tillerson dutifully watched as Exxon conducted what he considered to be essential PR to promote positive views by the public, regardless of the known dishonesty of the campaign. He may soon be in a position to provide a similar service on a grander scale for the U.S. Government, as usual determined by expediency and greed. Obama’s Energy Department basically acted in the same hypocritical way — facilitating fracking, sales of coal to China, offshore and Arctic drilling, and Tar Sands oil transport from Canada, while pretending to “care” and do something about the dangers of climate change.

    This is one more of the countless examples of why I have ceased to be hopeful about the continuation of human existence on this planet. Humans are a joke.

  9. ToivoS

    I have no doubt that the earth is warming due to man made fossil fuel burning. This could get real serious in that not too distant future. I also think Exxon’s involvement in the denialist movement is corrupt, putting profit ahead of human welfare.

    Having said that, for political reasons, I do hope that the Tillerson appointment is approved by the senate. It seems unlikely that he personally is a denialist and it seems unlikely that he will use his position as Sec of State to thwart efforts to curtail green house emissions. The reason he should be our Sec of State is that he is one of the few people out there who could achieve a deescalation of tensions with Russia. The current anti-Russian hysteria led by liberal Democrats could lead to war. Now that could be a cataclysm of truly biblical proportions. Global warming could turn out to as bad but it will probably take another century. Tillerson as sec of State will not accelerate that time table.

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