We Need Wisdom

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson

Amidst all the political noise, outright nonsense, and yes, some legitimate news that is being broadcast ad nauseam on radio and television these days, an extremely dangerous and ever-growing threat to our planet continues to loom in the future. But the topic of human-caused climate change is rarely discussed in the media, yet it is already manifesting itself in numerous ways around the world, such as in deadlier storms, shrinking ice caps, rising sea level, mass extinctions, deadlier heat waves, desertification of land areas, and ocean acidification which is destroying valuable coral reefs to name but a few.

So even though the vast majority of reputable scientists affirm the threat’s reality – and its current and future dangers – there are still many powerful, self-centered, and deluded individuals, often politicians, who continue to deny the threat’s existence. Even worse, they promote its denial, thereby prolonging immediate action.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s German scientists convincingly established that cigarette smoking is a direct cause of lung cancer. Later, in 1950 two American scientists found that 96.5 percent of lung-cancer patients are moderate to heavy smokers. Nevertheless, back in the 1950s and 1960s the tobacco industry spent vast sums of money on lobbyists who promoted the idea that the science on smoking tobacco was uncertain and who also questioned each medical and scientific finding that emerged. Doubt was their product.

But we now know that throughout the 1990s “Big Tobacco” became the target of several lawsuits which culminated in 1997 when the tobacco companies and state attorneys general announced a massive $368.5 billion settlement agreement. Sadly, the lawsuits didn’t help the deceased.

And back in October, 1979 the Exxon Research and Engineering Company released a confidential document in which was stated, “Present climatic models predict that the present trend of fossil fuel use will lead to dramatic climatic changes within the next 75 years.” Similarly, in 1986, the Health, Safety, and Environment division of Shell International Petroleum released another confidential report entitled “The Greenhouse Effect.” In that report was contained the statements, “Mathematical models of the earth’s climate indicate that if this warming occurs then it could create significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather. These changes could be larger than any that have occurred over the last 12,000 years. Such relatively fast and dramatic changes would impact on the human environment, future living standards and food supplies, and could have major social, economic and political consequences.”

Yet for decades, those same oil companies spent many millions of dollars on “think tanks” whose sole purpose was then, and continues even today, to spread doubt about global warming.

So today, Exxon is the target of investigations by attorneys general from Massachusetts and New York, as well as the city of Boulder, Colorado for its long-time campaign of sowing doubt. Likely other members of “Big Oil” will be next. And despite the many losses that have already occurred, we can only hope that wisdom eventually thrives.

Mike Kamandulis
Kersey, PA

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