WUWT has a piece on the “ever-shrinking lawsuits against Exxon” by Charles the Moderator. And, right on cue, the George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication has brought out a new report: “America Misled: How the Fossil Fuel Industry Deliberately Misled Americans about Climate Change,” by Cook, Supran, Lewandowsky, Oreskes and Maibach.
The article by “experts studying climate denial and the history of fossil fuel interests, based on thousands of pages of documented evidence” is a 15 page pdf with about two pages of text and lots of diagrams, mostly lifted from previous documents from the Cook/Lew/Oreskes kitchen.
Its key points are:
1. Internal corporate documents show that the fossil fuel industry has known about the reality of human-caused climate change for decades. Its response was to actively orchestrate and fund denial and disinformation so as to stifle action and protect its status quo business operations.
2. As the scientific consensus on climate change emerged and strengthened, the industry and its political allies attacked the consensus and exaggerated the uncertainties.
3. The fossil fuel industry offered no consistent alternative explanation for why the climate was changing—the goal was merely to undermine support for action.
4. The strategy, tactics, infrastructure, and rhetorical arguments and techniques used by fossil fuel interests to challenge the scientific evidence of climate change—including cherry picking, fake experts, and conspiracy theories—come straight out of the tobacco industry’s playbook for delaying tobacco control.
The only part of these claims supported by any evidence is the first sentence of point 1, which is evidently true. The article reproduces ExxonMobil’s internal memos and their paid “advertorial” in the New York Times, underlined and with commentary pencilled in by the authors. These handwritten comments provide the only thing that can be considered an argument in the whole article, and they are fascinating in their fatuity and unconscious humour. (I’m guessing they’re the work of lead author Cook.)
For example, on Exxon’s comment in a 1977 memo “5-10 YR WINDOW TO GET NECESSARY INFORMATION,” the authors comment, “Time is running out!” Well, up to a point, John. In 1977 Exxon thought it would take 5-10 years to “get information” i.e. a better scientific grasp on climate sensitivity. It didn’t happen of course, but that’s not Exxon’s fault. Cook and his mates couldn’t boil an egg without shrieking “Time is running out!” They’re programmed that way.
Then on a 1988 recommendation to “Urge a balanced scientific approach” Cook scrawls: “Use ‘both sides’ approach to confuse people.” “Balance,” to professors from Harvard and Bristol, is a confusing concept.
In the New York Times “advertorial” in 2000, alongside Exxon’s statement that: “it is not surprising that fundamental gaps in knowledge leave scientists unable to make reliable predictions about future changes,” Cook non-sequiturs: “Falsely argues that because we don’t know everything, we know nothing.”
And so on. The article commits every crime against logic which they attribute to deniers. Anyone reading it dispassionately will see that Exxon and their ad agency are paragons of rational thought, while the professors from Harvard, George Mason and Bristol are a bunch of hysterical loons, incapable of forming a logical argument. But we knew that already.