By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst
Black smoke billows out of facilities at ExxonMobil’s massive oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas several days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Photo by Julie Dermansky of DeSmog blog. SOURCE LINK: http://bit.ly/2xvhrPg
As detailed in the most recent installment of our ongoing investigation into how the Exxon Mobil Corporation has characterized risks to its business operations associated with climate change in its annual 10-K reports to shareholders, year after year, the company has alleged that one of the risks to its operations is the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions as a public policy to mitigate global climate change, but has failed to list climate change itself as a risk when communicating with its shareholders (See previous segments of our investigation here: Part One (1993-2000); Part Two (2000-2008); Part Three(A) (2009), Part Three(B) (2010), Part Three(C) (2011), and Part Three(D) (2012)). On this matter – the subject of a criminal investigation by at least two state Attorneys General for this failure – the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world has been silent. It has been tight-lipped even about the risks for its massive oil refinery facilities in coastal areas subject to storm surges and flooding and associated with sea-level rise and the projected increased intensity and rainfall rates of North Atlantic hurricanes.
Hurricane Harvey inflicted a large amount of damage on ExxonMobil oil refining and chemical processing facilities in Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, though the full extent of the damage has not yet been fully assessed. The floating roof on an oil storage tank collected so much rainwater that the sheer weight caused it to partially collapse, resulting in a large volume of toxic air emissions. Countless other repairs are being conducted in the weeks following the unprecedented rains accompanying the hurricane and its aftermath. There is no question that climate change added extra energy and moisture to Hurricane Harvey, exacerbating its devastating effect. Will ExxonMobil change its tune and start reporting climate change impacts as potential risks to its operations, or will it continue to bury its head in the sand?
Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Watch, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction
Tagged Climate Change Preparedness, Exxon Mobil, Hurricane Harvey
Damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 28, 2017. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon
Report identifies rising risks posed by hurricanes as planet warms
By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow
The Climate Change Special Report, arguably the most important report produced by the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) under the Trump Administration, still has not been cleared for publication. The clearance process already has taken three times longer than originally assumed. Among the report’s findings: climate change is ratcheting up the risks hurricanes pose for the United States.
The political stakes for the Trump Administration have only grown during the review. A June draft of the report was leaked to the New York Times, which ran a front-page story on the report. Then Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, highlighting not only the connections between climate change and hurricanes, but the costs of inaction in the face of mounting risks. See “Katrina. Sandy. Harvey. The debate over climate and hurricanes is getting louder and louder” (Washington Post, 30 August 2017).
Criticism has grown over local, state and federal officials who have consistently denied the science underlying the Climate Change Special Report and who have systematically undermined efforts to slow climate change and to prepare for its emerging impacts. See the Washington Post editorial: “Houston is paying the price for public officials’ ignorance” (August 29, 2017). Those officials include former Texas Governor Perry who now is the Secretary of the Department of Energy – the only major agency that has not yet cleared the report for public release.
Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Source: EPA
By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow
“Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” said Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, when asked about the leaked draft of a Federal Climate Science Special Report (CSSR). Speaking on a Texas radio show on August 10, 2017, he added:
“Science should not be politicized. Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, DC.”
Funny he should say that. Pruitt himself has a well-established record of politicizing science. Furthermore, he sits on the National Science and Technology Council that has overseen production of the report, and his agency had already twice reviewed and approved earlier drafts. As for peer review, the National Academies of Sciences reviewed and praised an earlier draft.
Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Administration, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program
By Anne Polansky
Covering the year 2013, this is our latest installment in a timeline series addressing how the Exxon Mobil Corporation has characterized risks to its business operations associated with climate change (in its annual 10-K reports to shareholders), in light of what corporate leadership knew, or reasonably could have known, regarding anthropogenic global warming and associated climate change impacts. For previous segments, see Part One (1993-2000); Part Two (2000-2008); Part Three(A) (2009), Part Three(B) (2010), Part Three(C) (2011), and Part Three(D) (2012).
In 2013, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years, marking a milestone that, while symbolic, called greater attention to escalating greenhouse gas levels and a steady global warming trend. Scientists had already been warning that a runaway greenhouse effect could disrupt Earth’s climate system to a point of no return. Climate change impacts continued to worsen in regions across the globe, and few communities were sufficiently prepared for these impacts. Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil was investing its massive $45 billion in earnings in maximizing extraction and processing of oil and gas, including the controversial use of hydrofracturing (fracking) to extract fuel from tar sands and the expansion of offshore oil drilling. Despite pressure from shareholders to address climate change meaningfully, CEO Rex Tillerson stood his ground in suggesting that bringing fossil fuels to those who lack ready access (such as the 1.2 billion people without electricity) was the “humanitarian” thing to do, rather than leading the transition away from an increasingly risky high-carbon energy future. By 2013, nine of the ten hottest years on record had occurred since the turn of the century, and growing instances of harmful climate impacts across the US and the world were impossible to ignore. Yet, these risks were readily discounted by corporate leadership at ExxonMobil.
Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Administration, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity
Troubled and opaque Administration review process is a harbinger of problems for the Fourth National Climate Assessment
By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow
A final draft of a key federal report on the science behind climate change has been leaked to the New York Times and made public. The “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR), produced by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a cornerstone of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a periodic study of climate change impacts across US regions. Many wonder how the Trump-Pence White House will deal with this first major US government report on climate change to come across its desk; a report warning that Americans are feeling the harmful impacts of climate change in real time, and therefore “directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet” as noted by the Times. Initially released for public review and comment during the last days of the Obama Administration, the final draft was submitted to the White House for final approval on June 28.
The same Times piece reports that “[s]cientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.” Those fears are well founded. As a candidate and as President, Donald Trump has rejected clear scientific evidence that climate change poses a serious global threat, and has populated his cabinet with those who deny that fossil fuel emissions currently are the primary driver of climate change, and reject imperatives to cut carbon emissions and prepare for dangerous climate change impacts happening now. Instead, the Trump White House is actively dismantling the government’s capacity to address climate change, and thus to deal meaningfully with a problem the nation’s defense apparatus has labeled a major threat to national security.
Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Administration, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry
By Anne Polansky and Nicky Sundt
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and others are calling for a red-team/blue-team (RT/BT) exercise to resolve differences of opinion regarding the science of global climate change. The approach is meant to resolve conflict through a structured debate. It is typically employed by military analysts and business strategists to improve decision-making and reach agreement on contested issues. Pruitt, Perry, and others assert that such an orchestrated process will bridge disagreements around climate change and build consensus.
There is little compelling evidence supporting that assertion. To the contrary, the proposal is likely to intensify conflict over climate science and policy, while needlessly undermining existing scientific and political institutions.
Nicky Sundt has joined the Government Accountability Project (GAP) as a Senior Fellow for GAP’s Climate Science & Policy Watch (CSPW) program. She is an expert on energy and climate change with over 35 years of experience and accomplishment in government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. During the four-month fellowship, Nicky will watch over and report on key US federal climate science obligations under law – especially those relating to communications to the President, Congress, and the public.
“Regardless of the Trump Administration’s dismissive views about climate change, and despite its efforts to undermine U.S. climate action, it still is bound by laws,” Nicky says. “These require climate research, data and observations, and communication – all essential to informed action by both the public and private sectors. I look forward to helping ensure that our Federal government is fully complying with the spirit and letter of the law, and is serving the public interest.”
“Hello Mr. President, I hope you will take action on climate change,” CSPW founder and George W. Bush White House climate change whistleblower Rick Piltz said politely but firmly to President Bush in the White House Rose Garden on a sunny morning in June 2001. The President was just about to make a much-anticipated statement on climate change. History is repeating itself today, but this time with the stakes raised as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have now exceeded 400 ppm. Just as news of President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw the US from the December 2015 Paris Agreement leaked yesterday morning, nearly 16 years ago today, those anxious to hear what President Bush had to say in 2001 about climate change action had already been tipped off that a withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol was eminent, and President Bush would refuse to send the signed treaty to the Senate for ratification. A well-established global warming trend had led to mounting concerns about climate change over the previous decade, and Piltz was one of millions of Americans who worried that gains made under President Clinton would be reversed or perhaps abandoned altogether by President Bush. Climate change had already become a partisan issue with nascent but promising bitterness, naturally embraced by liberals, generally dismissed summarily by conservatives.
By June 2001, Piltz had been a senior associate at the Coordination Office for the US Global Change Research Program for six years, responsible for editing and producing scientific reports written by federal climate scientists scattered over about a dozen agencies working on the problem. He was proud of the key role he had played in the production of the very first national assessment of climate change impacts across US regions and economic sectors, a comprehensive report to Congress and the public required by a 1990 bill signed into law by George Bush’s father. The 2000 National Assessment, officially released in the waning hours of Clinton’s second term, warned of dire climate consequences already discernible, measurable, and underway. President Bush had already taken active steps to deep-six the study; its message was too contrary to the oil-friendly nature of the new administration. This to say, Piltz very much wanted to know what George W. Bush had to say about climate change.
Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Congress: Legislation and Oversight, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, International Climate Policy, National Security, Obama Administration, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Uncategorized
On the anniversary of this horrific event, we are reminded of the tragic loss of life and health, devastation to marine life and the coastline ecosystems, and distress to local economies and livelihoods. But we are also reminded that we are no more prepared to handle devastating oil spills now than we were 7 years ago. The need to respect scientific understanding is critical: both when examining the use of the toxic dispersant Corexit and when discussing general climate change science. To combat this neglect of scientific integrity, understanding, and transparency, GAP will stand at the March for Science. At a 10 a.m. teach-in about the importance of truth-tellers in science, GAP’s Director of Education & Strategic Partnerships Dana Gold will educate attendees about the critical role that whistleblowers play in protecting the public interest and promoting science-based policy. We stand with courageous whistleblowers and invite you to also.
Recollecting when he first heard about the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and commenting on the current state of affairs, the following blog post is written by GAP’s Executive Director & CEO Louis Clark, cross-posted from the GAP website: www.whistleblower.org.
Severe drought affects a stock pond just south of Dallas. Source: http://n.pr/2oPn2xH
This sixth installment of our series covers events occurring throughout 2012 that point to disparities between what was known and knowable by leadership at the Exxon Mobil Corporation, and what the oil giant was communicating to its shareholders regarding the risks to its operations associated with climate change and its impacts. The question is, do these known disparities rise to the level of fraud? Ongoing investigations by the NY and MA Attorneys General will determine the answer and, potentially, could find ExxonMobil guilty. Such a finding and punitive measures that could follow would represent a major turning point in the way society deals with energy corporations that peddle doubt and disinformation regarding a global threat it regards solely as a threat to annual earnings.
Pressure to deal fairly and squarely with climate change mounted in 2012: nearly a third of ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted to mandate a corporate plan to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to specific target levels. A clever television ad campaign was launched, one that carried a message no CEO wants to hear: “Exxon Hates Your Children.” In his reelection campaign, President Barack Obama vowed to take away the comfortable crutch fossil fuel companies had come to rely on and think of as an entitlement: $4 billion of oil and gas subsidies. As it had always done, ExxonMobil under the leadership of Rex Tillerson fought back aggressively with well-funded ad campaigns, legal action, and a stubborn insistence that maximizing extraction and production took precedence over all else. Meanwhile, in its own corporate backyard, Texas continued to suffer from a debilitating, costly drought. One would have had to live in a bubble not to take notice and recognize that the long stretches of high temperatures and the prolonged rain deficit were atypical of normal weather patterns.
CSPW is preparing a White Paper that will integrate this series, covering the period from 1993 to the present (See Part One (1993-2000); Part Two (2000-2008); and Part Three(A) (2009), Part Three(B) (2010), and Part Three(C) (2011)).