Posted by: ericgrimsrud | October 25, 2015

Something we should do right now – Prosecute!

The second report of Exxon’s misrepresentation of their own climate change research during the last 25 years is now out. It recently ran in the Los Angeles Times and can be seen at http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-research/.  (I previously discussed the first report in a September 2015 post. You should also read that report if you missed it.)

As you read these reports, ask yourself: if they are accurate, does Exxon’s behavior not constitute a crime against the citizens of our country and more generally one against humanity, in general?  For example, how could Exxon’s actions be considered less harmful to public wellbeing than the criminal behavior of the tobacco industry in its misrepresentation of the health hazards of tobacco products?  Shouldn’t we be prosecuting Exxon today for its intentional misrepresentations of fossil fuel use during the last 25 years – during which Exxon was very well aware of the likely detrimental effects of the elevated carbon dioxide levels present in our atmosphere?

I, like Bernie Sanders, think that Exxon should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Why not?  Is Exxon now one of those “too big to fail” corporations that must be excluded from punishments for its criminal behavior – perpetrated solely for its own financial interests?  Is the fact that an appropriate fine for their past behavior might bankrupt Exxon and lead to great financial losses for its numerous investors constitute a reason for not prosecuting this crime?  Are our laws and the enforcement of them determined merely by envisioned financial outcomes of such prosecutions?  If, on the other hand, words have meaning and the laws created by those words have substance, shouldn’t we proceed with the legal case against Exxon on the basis of the information being revealed in these emerging reports? If, due to their long-time usage, fossil fuels are now as American as apple pie, wouldn’t we still prosecute even a vendor of apple pies if that vendor knew their product contained a substance that was likely to be harmful to humans and then focused their promotional efforts on hiding that knowledge from the public? For recommending that we do the right thing in this instance, is Bernie Sanders going to be dismissed as a “socialist” because he dares to hold one of our nation’s largest and wealthiest industries accountable for its actions? Are we going to continue with the suicidal assumption that what’s good for our fossil fuel industries is also good for our economy?

Yes, this really is a test case for addressing that ever-present question: is the USA today an oligarchy run in accordance with the preferences of its most wealthy or is it a constitutional democracy run in accordance with its Constitution and laws. For those of you who believe the latter, it would seem appropriate to encourage the legal actions recommended here. For those of you who believe the former (and I am sure there are lots of you out there), you might at least consider divesting yourselves from the fossil fuel industries before the very thin ice on which their existence now depends melts away.

To Abe Lincoln’s famous quote, “you can fool some of the people all of the time and perhaps all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”, I would add, “and you can never fool Mother Nature at any time”. And, it turns out, our fields of Science have historically provided our most successful means of predicting what Mother Nature does.

The unforgivable crime committed by Exxon was to deliberately hide and obscure that scientific information from the public view over the last 25 years – just so it could continue to rake in billions per year for as long as possible. Considering the likely outcomes of their successful charade, Exxon’s actions are now sure to set in motion a literal holocaust of physical conditions for future generations trying to develop meaningful lives throughout our entire planet.

In order to conduct the trial being suggested here – the historical importance of which would be sure to rank with the trials held in Nuremberg starting in 1945 – perhaps we should consider using lawyers from other countries that appear to be more aware than ours of science, in general, and climate science, in particular. If so, it might be particularly appropriate to have German lawyers return the favor American lawyers once provided them in the prosecution of German citizens for various alleged crimes against humanity. Germany today seems to have a far better sense of its obligation to preserve the global environment than does the USA (see my previous June 2015 post concerning this point). In addition, due to the indebtedness most American politicians have to the fossil fuel industries for financial assistance during their elections, it might be more appropriate to hold those trials somewhere other than the USA.


Responses

  1. Eric; I have not been to your site much of late for valid reasons.
    “As you read these reports, ask yourself: if they are accurate, does Exxon’s behavior not constitute a crime against the citizens of our country and more generally one against humanity, in general?  For example, how could Exxon’s actions be considered less harmful to public wellbeing than the criminal behavior of the tobacco industry in its misrepresentation of the health hazards of tobacco products?” 

    Only some one with your mentality and lack of objective thought process could fee l justified to bring up the tobacco industry, which even you should be able to see produces a product subsidized by the government that no one needs and energy, a product that everyone needs in an advanced society.

    [Response from EPG: John, First a correction of your information: government subsidies for the fossil fuel industries have greatly exceeded government subsidies to the tobacco interests. Nevertheless, I will agree with you that what the fossil fuel industries are doing to human health is not readily comparable to what the tobacco interests did. Our unchecked emissions of CO2 will cause a million times more human grief than have tobacco products. Thanks for providing the opportunity to clarify this point. Eric]


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