By Roger I. Roots, J.D., Ph.D.,
Those who promote manmade-global-warming hysteria cheered last week when the attorney general of New York announced that he was investigating Exxon to determine if Exxon has spent money to fund research by climate-change skeptics. The move followed a trendy notion that there is something improper about energy companies scrutinizing a scientific agenda explicitly aimed at bankrupting and abolishing them.
In fact, given the high-stakes war being waged over climate policy, it would be utterly irresponsible for an energy company NOT to independently investigate the science behind the issue. The vast majority of all money spent on the science of global warming is spent by governments seeking more power to regulate the energy industry. It has been said that university climate scientists are flush with government grant money if they side with the government; broke if they don’t. They get tenure if they promote the government’s agenda, and risk being denied tenure if they don’t.
Even so, climate-change alarmists are increasingly desperate. NASA recently admitted that south-polar ice is at its highest level ever recorded by satellite. Ice at the North Pole has expanded by hundreds of miles. Satellites have measured no global warming whatsoever in 18 years, and weather-related natural disasters are down 80 percent from a decade ago.
The only ‘science’ bolstering the alarmists’ view are (1) government-funded computer models which are known to overestimate global warming by an average of two to five times, and (2) government-funded SURFACE temp data which are constantly “adjusted” by government-funded scientists to suit the government.
The alarmists behind the global-warming scare are desperate to prove a link between fossil fuel money and climate-change skepticism. But because direct links are difficult to find, the alarmists must stack inference upon inference. An easily-debunked “study” supposedly proving a link between fossil-fuel barons and climate skepticism shows only that such investors have spent money on conservative think tanks, which occasionally delve into skepticism of climate hysteria.
How could it ever be ‘illegal’ to support scientific research or skepticism? Apparently, the New York Attorney General is acting on a theory that that ‘Exxon knew’ that only one position (the government-approved position) was correct during the 1970s or 1980s. (Note that the “internal documents” which supposedly provide the “smoking gun” evidence for this proposition are mostly just memos or emails in which energy-firm employees merely discussed various dimensions of the issue. See here, and here.) According to this government theory, after being alerted to speculation that CO2 may cause global warming, Exxon was not allowed to investigate further.
Even today, after decades of discussion, the role of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is a matter of controversy among Ph.D.-holding scientists. Indeed, several high-profile scientists have changed their opinions to become more skeptical of the manmade-global-warming theory over time.
Exxon could actually be sued by its own shareholders for breach of fiduciary duties if the corporation failed to inquire into the government’s claims. The Wrigley gum corporation was sued by shareholders in the 1960s for refusing to install lights at Wrigley Field, and thus failing to maximize profits. Other corporations have been sued by their shareholders for foolish spending decisions, or failing to perform due diligence regarding potential threats to profitability.
UPDATE: John Stossel has a new column on the New York AG: This AG is waging war on liberty on a variety of fronts. He is seeking to ban fantasy sports betting, mixed martial arts, ridesharing and apartment sharing. Mostly to appease government licensees and labor unions. See here.