Thanks to their choices we may be powerless to mitigate the worst effects of man-made climate change
THIERRY DE CORDIER, INSCRIPTA CHRISTO PAGINA, 1994 | COURTESY: THE ARTIST AND XAVIER HUFKENS
In 1981, Exxon had a chance to warn us about the coming dangers of climate change.
An internal memo noted that fossil fuels were transforming global temperatures. If left unchecked the effects would be “catastrophic.”
They had a chance to warn us in 1977, when they first saw the signs. They had another chance in 1988, when James Hansen first brought global warming into the public discussion. And another in 1989. And 1990. And every year after that. They could have warned us. They could have been aboveboard about the global catastrophe we were courting every time we put a tiger in our tank. They could have given us time to prepare, to invest in renewable alternatives, to change infrastructure.
They could have, but they didn’t.
Instead, like the tobacco companies before them, they chose to mislead. To misinform. To spend more than $30 million dollars on more than 30 organizations over more than 30 years, for no purpose but to sow confusion and muddy the waters of debate with lies. To prevent meaningful policy action and undermine science. Knowingly, with malice aforethought, they organized the most monumental deception in human history and thanks to their treachery we’ve wasted decades. Thanks to their choices we may be powerless to mitigate the worst effects of man-made climate change, powerless to prevent the disruption, transformation, or destruction of every city and ecosystem on the planet.
They had a chance in 1977. And 1981. And 1990. They had a chance to stop it. And they haven’t.
So now it’s up to us to stop them. A lie this monumental demands consequences beyond mere noise or anger. We can demand the revocation of their corporate charter. We can demand that their profits – all of them – be invested into ways of getting us out of this mess. We can demand jail time. We can demand a federal investigation and racketeering charges. We can put them in beachfront shacks so they get a front-row seat when the oceans rise and turn to acid. We can demand a grand social exorcism designed to choke them the way they’ve choked our airways and waterways. We can demand principles of natural justice and universal morality. Demand an end to a practice odious in its continuance. Find a way to make every single one of them realize the base, insidious nature of a lie that may have cost the children their future for the sake of a few extra dollars in the bank.
A fine is not enough. An apology is not enough. Not this time. We can prove Actus Reus and Mens Rea. We can demand Punitive Damages and Absolute Liability.
No appeals. No adjournments. No arbitration.
We have to pronounce sentence.
— Jesse Donaldson
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