Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl: ‘The incredibly indefensible prosecution of Exxon’
Even if Exxon could have a “corporate opinion” about the scientific question, this opinion is completely irrelevant. It is a scientific question so the relevant opinions are those that are backed by the scientific evidence, usually articulated in scientific papers.
Papers isn’t what Exxon is producing (at most, papers about the technology of drilling etc. may matter in the company but not those on different topics) so its opinions about a scientific question, especially an incredibly controversial one, is simply irrelevant and cannot serve as the basis of anything.
Now, Exxon has over 80,000 employees. So one of them was a “climate alarmist” back in 1977 – almost everyone else ignored him or thought that Mr Black was just bullšiting – and even now, 38 years later, this fact is supposed to be a problem for the whole company whose capitalization is $0.35 trillion.The incredibly indefensible prosecution of Exxon
America is the land of the unlimited possibilities. Sadly, it’s often the case when it comes to unbelievably outrageous events, too.The New York State’s prosecutor Eric Schneiderman has actually started the investigation of Exxon. The company is accused of “having lied about the effects of carbon dioxide on climate change for 40 years”.What is going on here?I will discuss the actual events that are supposed to form the “foundation” of these lawsuits momentarily. But there’s one obvious point: “the effects of carbon dioxide and/or/on climate change” are a scientific question and it may only be answered by scientific research.Exxon wasn’t and isn’t an institution whose goal is to do scientific research at all. It is an energy company meant to make profit by providing its clients with products and services related to the energy and the fossil fuels.So even if Exxon could have a “corporate opinion” about the scientific question, this opinion is completely irrelevant. It is a scientific question so the relevant opinions are those that are backed by the scientific evidence, usually articulated in scientific papers. Papers isn’t what Exxon is producing (at most, papers about the technology of drilling etc. may matter in the company but not those on different topics) so its opinions about a scientific question, especially an incredibly controversial one, is simply irrelevant and cannot serve as the basis of anything.So one immediate problem is that Exxon is simply not a scientific institution so it cannot be claimed to “know” the right answers to scientific questions. Only those who do research and collect the relevant evidence may learn and know the true answers to scientific questions.Aside from Exxon’s being a commercial, not scientific entity, the second problem with the general accusation that “Exxon lied about the science” is that Exxon is a company, not an individual, so it just couldn’t “collectively” know about the right answer even if it were a scientific institution. Individual people and individual scientists may have and do have different opinions about various matters. A company may issue some statements on behalf of the company but it’s clear that it’s just some opinions of certain heads who had the right to speak on behalf of such a company – and such a generalized “corporate opinion” on science simply cannot have any legal implications whatsoever.But things get even crazier if you look at the actual foundation of the claim that “Exxon knew but lied”. The greenest and most unhinged environmental activists have spread this meme since September 2015. See e.g. this text in Gizmodo.They have said that “Exxon has known about the anthropogenic global warming at least since 1977”. What does it mean that “Exxon has known”? InsideClimateNews.org tells us quite some details about the would-be “shocking” events at Exxon:In July 1977, James F. Black, an employee in Exxon’s Research and Engineering division, made a presentation in front of other employees and claimed that the doubling of CO2 would mean a 2-3 °C warming in the global average and 10 °C at the poles.In other words, what these environmentalist loons managed to find out was one employee who was saying the same thing that has turned to a widespread ideology among the leftists in the early 21st century. There was not even a proper paper published anywhere. There was not even a paper. It was an opinion or a hobby of one scientist – a guy who has no publication record that would be related to climatology.Now, Exxon has over 80,000 employees. So one of them was a “climate alarmist” back in 1977 – almost everyone else ignored him or thought that Mr Black was just bullšiting – and even now, 38 years later, this fact is supposed to be a problem for the whole company whose capitalization is $0.35 trillion.Needless to say, the description of the would-be “problem” that Black offered in 1977 was almost identical to what we hear these days, including the values of the climate sensitivity. Indeed, despite tens of billions of dollars that have been spent on research that was ordered to produce “similar conclusions”, the apocalyptic part of climatology has done no progress in those almost 40 years at all. No improvements in the accuracy or certainty, nothing.However, Black’s claims weren’t terribly original back in 1977, either. Joseph Fourier realized that the greenhouse effect existed in 1824. John Tyndall has done experiments proving the existence of the effect around 1850. And the world’s top chemist Svante Arrhenius wrote a paper in 1896 (PDF) that estimated the warming from the doubling of CO2 (or H2CO3, as he called it) to be around 5 °C. It’s higher than Black’s or IPCC’s median estimates – but you find climate alarmists who prefer nearby figures even today.Nothing essential has really changed about these warnings since 1896. The greenhouse effect is known to exist to science. Its strength is probably weak enough for CO2 – and those who want to focus on it are the “out-of-average” scientists who think (or pretend to think) that it’s stronger than what others believe, and those scientists end up with several if not five degrees Celsius per doubling.But whatever the exact value is (Jo Nova’s fresh article claims that the sensitivity is just 0.25 °C and it is basically consistent with everything I know, too), we know that the deduced implications for the mankind and Nature have been wrong.It wasn’t just Black in 1977. Similar comments could have been seen in the U.S. politics at least since 1965 when a report was written for President Lyndon Johnson. Those reports warned of “measurable and perhaps marked changes of the climate by 2000”. There haven’t been any marked changes and while the temperature changes have been measurable, there’s no robust evidence that would allow us to attribute the changes to particular well-defined causes.But back to the main point. The guy, Mr Black, could have impressed one manager of Exxon or two (while others had the opposite opinion) – it’s not shocking that people sometimes impress each other. But I find it flabbergasting that the opinion of one particular employee is being presented as the “official knowledge of Exxon as a company”. Is the presence of one alarmist enough to turn your company or institution into a company or institution that “officially knows” about all the idiotic fearmongering? If that’s so, I would surely recommend every sane company or institution to fire or eradicate every single employee who is at risk of being aligned with the environmentalists now or those in the future.If the New York’s prosecutor managed to significantly harm Exxon as a company, the following conclusion would be obviously true:Exxon will have paid tens of billions of dollars for its failure to fire a dirty green hysterical crackpot James F. Black in time.Shareholders of the world, unite! We just can’t afford this climate alarmist scum to stay in our companies. Climate alarmism is apparently toxic even at very low concentrations. They are the real poison that we have to remove unless we want the future of the mankind to be crippled.
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