SUMMARY: The world rolls on, hotter than ever. This week on Radio Ecoshock: Neela Banerjee from InsideClimate News investigates the world’s biggest oil company, Exxon/Mobil. Starting in the 1970’s, Exxon knew their product would damage the climate, but chose to fund denial. In “The End of Plenty”, National Geographic author Joel Bourne says the future of food and population isn’t going to happen. Plus Terence McKenna on why most people are idiots; Paul Ehrlich on disappearing animals; & song “Love-A-Lution”. Radio Ecoshock 150930.
I’m Alex Smith. Thanks for joining in. Let’s get started.
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EXXON KNEW – AND STILL FUNDED CLIMATE DENIAL
The world’s largest oil company knew climate change would result from their products as early as 1977. That’s just part of startling revelations coming out of an investigation by InsideClimate News. To get the whole scoop, we’ve reached their senior investigative
journalist, Neela Banerjee.
While researching the early days of climate science, journalists with InsideClimateNews found puzzling things. There were scientific papers on climate change in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, published by Exxon scientists. Exxon experts even testified to Congress about the risks of climate change in those early days.
The world’s largest oil company rigged up a supertanker with measuring instruments to study the amount of carbon going into the oceans. The company forsaw carbon controls, and wanted to be taken seriously as a party to those discussions.
Documents found in company archives, including those held at the University of Texas, showed this wasn’t a low level exploit by some adventurous company scientists. Top levels of management were advised about the serious risk of climate change, routinely.
According to InsideClimate News:
“As early as 1978, Exxon’s scientists predicted that burning fossil fuels could lead to climate change that would ‘destroy agricultural output’ for entire countries. Exxon scientists issued urgent and dire warnings to top Exxon executives that climate change could be “catastrophic” and ‘irreversible,’ and that prevention would ‘require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.‘”
Exxon doesn’t deny any of this happened. How could they? There are films, letters, published papers, Congressional testimony. But Neela Banerjee says the company doesn’t want to talk about it now.
Most of the Exxon climate research ended around 1982, likely due to widespread cost-cutting at the company during a down-turn. However their climate modeling unit kept on going.
In 1989, Exxon joined the infamous “Global Climate Coalition“. That may sound like an activist group, but really it was a gathering of carbon polluters, with the intent to prevent any controls on carbon pollution. Then in the 1990’s, and at least until around 2007, Exxon, and later Exxon/Mobil, poured millions of dollars into any “Institute” or scientists that would help confuse the public about the reality of global warming. Like the tobacco lobby (whose products also killed millions) Exxon worked hard to create doubt. Exxon executives like Rex Tillerson were close to being climate deniers.
In so doing, as the world’s biggest oil company, with offices in almost every country, the company helped stall climate action, and made our whole situation a lot worse.
Exxon still hasn’t come clean. According to a press release from InsideClimate News:
“As recently as Exxon’s 2015 shareholder meeting, CEO Rex Tillerson questioned if climate change was linked to the extreme weather that Exxon’s own scientists predicted three decades ago. Exxon has directed roughly $30 million in funding to groups that dispute the
connection between fossil fuels and climate change. Despite a 2007 promise to stop funding climate change deniers, the company has given more than $2 million to members of Congress who continue to deny that human activity is driving climate change.”
Find the whole series at InsideClimate News here.
Here are clips from the PBS show Frontline on this early Exxon research, including film of the Exxon scientists on the supertanker.
Frontline: scientist Ed Garvey on Exxon Research
Frontline: scientist Richard Warthamer on Exxon and climate change
EDITORIAL COMMENT BY ALEX SMITH
There’s no doubt in my mind that executives of companies who know climate change will cause incalculable damage to our civilization and all nature will eventually be charged with crimes against humanity, at the very least. It may be posthumously for some. Others will be brought out as we saw the 80 and 90 year-old Nazi war criminals still prosecuted.
There are not enough words to describe the enormity of knowing your product will wreck the climate, knowing that the public could have and should have been warned, and trying to hide it, all to make a buck. When cities go underwater during storms, and then permanently; when fires and floods wreck our homes; when the species say good-bye forever; when the heat of Hell breaks loose – surely that is beyond forgiveness. I’m Alex Smith, that’s my opinion and this is Radio Ecoshock.
THE IMPOSSIBLE FUTURE WILL CRASH – JOEL K. BOURNE AND THE END OF PLENTY
There is another futurecast sure to wreck on the rocks of a harsh reality. The United Nations predicts there will be over 11 billion humans on the earth by the year 2100. Our next guest explains why that isn’t going to happen, and why most of us have already lived the most prosperous years of our lives.
Throughout history, there have been times of mass famine – until this century. Children today have hardly heard that word in the news. That may be about to change.
Joel K. Bourne Jr. is one of the top agriculture journalists. His work appears regularly in National Geographic and other publications. His new book is “The End of Plenty, The Race to Feed a Crowded World“.
Joel has a degree in Agronomy. He grew up in rural North Carolina. Joel worked at farms and thought he would be a farmer. As he studied, he lost faith in agribusiness. Joel has been reporting on food problems in National Geographic as a contributing writer, and sometimes editor, since the year 2000.
Joel K. Bourne Jr.
Ever since Malthus in the 1700’s, up to the Ehrlich’s in the 1970’s, people have been warning there is an upper limit to food production on this planet. Yet we seem to be almost feeding billions more people. Why should we pay attention to the idea of peak food now? That’s where we start in this interview – and yes, peak food is already developing, and will get worse with climate change.
Strangely, most years we are already consuming more food, such as grains, than the world can grow. That’s only possible because we stash away extra stocks during years of bumper crops. But as Lester Brown, recently retired from Earth-Policy Institute, told us for years, the world grain reserve keeps shrinking and shrinking. It’s now down to about 70 days. Just a couple of bad harvests in America, Russia, or Australia, and there will be no reserves at
Egypt is a prime example. In the 1960’s Egypt produced so much wheat it exported to other countries in the Middle East. Wheat is a primary food there, it is called the bread of life. Now, partly due to a doubling of population, Egypt is the single largest importer of wheat in the world. When when prices go up, there is trouble in the streets, and often a change of government. That’s the future in many places in the world.
We may have reached peak plant production, with limited sunlight, soil, etc. Our yields started to flatten out in 2000, and stayed relatively flat during this century.
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL DAMAGE AGRICULTURE
Joel explains how climate change will add big pressure to a world already slated to grow billions more humans. In fact, even without climate change, there is not enough land or energy to feed the 11 billion humans the United Nations forecasts for the end of this
It turns out “the Green Revolution” wasn’t green in environmental terms. There have been big damages to nature due to the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides used. All of that is based on cheap fossil fuels, which won’t be around in affordable amounts even 50 years from now (listen to last week’s interview with biologist James Brown for more on that). Take away the fossil-based fertilizer, and millions will starve.
Meanwhile, the United States is plowing more and more grains into biofuels. Europe is doing the same with various vegetable oils to make diesel (for those “green” Volkswagens no doubt). And the hype about genetic engineered crops saving the world is just hype. Only two major products have made it to market, and they don’t do much.
Joel is optimistic that we can grow more food in the sea, which he calls “the blue revolution”. Due to our bad experience with aquaculture in British Columbia, I have less faith in this solution.
Many people in the West presume that famine, or at least persistent hunger, may reappear in far way countries in Asia or Africa. But food production is now so global, so interlinked, that in years to come, food may become expensive or harder to get in North America or Europe too. There is already a lot of hidden poverty in “rich” countries.
There are some solutions in alternative agriculture that doesn’t depend on fossil fuels and doesn’t wreck the natural system. Bourne looked around the world for these solutions and they are in the book.
Joel K. Bourne has the most complete and authoritative work I’ve seen on this giant subject, in his new book “The End of Plenty, The Race to Feed a Crowded World”. Anyone who cares about the future should read it. Find out more at joelkbournejr.com.
You can also listen to an National Public Radio interview with Joel Bourne here.
PAUL EHRLICH COMING UP: THE END OF MANY WILD ANIMALS
Our story books are filled with wild and magical animals: spotted jaguars, crafty tigers and friendly Tiggers, elephants who can never forget, and crocodiles with sore teeth. Sadly, hidden behind the roar of human-based news, all that is disappearing on our
Next week I’m going to talk with the venerable Paul Ehrlich about his new book “”The Annihilation of Nature – Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals”. In this program, I run a short clip where Paul tells us about some of those animals. It’s from a from a video made by the Woods Institute. You can watch it on You tube here.
We just had time for a couple of eclectic bits. Terence McKenna explains why the world is full of idiots, and then Diana Lindley charms us with her song “Love-A-Loution”.
WHY THE WORLD IS FULL OF IDIOTS
Here is the late Terence McKenna.
The You tube address for that video is here.
The You tube video was published on Feb 12, 2014 It was taken from “Conversations at the End of the Millennium” with Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake. The music is Nara by E.S. Posthumous.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR LOVE AS REVOLUTION
Diana Lindley is a Canadian, a Vancouver Islander, who feels driven to get this song Love-A-Lution out. There are several versions, including a very neat You tube video which features child-like crayon drawings by the team of a young brother and sister, Kinata and Yoko Kikuchi. The full length version was made for the New York City Climate March.
Let the skeptics and harsh critics lay down their weary burdens. Let’s reach for the child inside, and for the children at our side. We need to find a way to end our war against nature.
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