That’s the accusation from an opinion piece found at the Washington Post. And it got me thinking enough to distract me from writing about renewable power.
I believe the short answer is no. The Post piece argues otherwise. It is by Robert Brulle, a professor of not only sociology but also environmental science at Drexler University, qualifications I assume to pronounce on the subject. But a pronouncement is all it is–he doesn’t really offer any concrete evidence.
Were Americans duped? Not if public opinion is any gauge. Majorities of the American public have repeatedly indicated they accept both the fact of a changing climate and the conclusions of climate scientists that humans are responsible for about half the warming since 1950. Right or wrong, Americans have accepted the position Brulle advocates.
Brulle seems to think Americans are duped, however. He writes, “Future generations will look back on our tepid response to global climate disruption and wonder why we did not act sooner and more aggressively. Climate change will adversely impact present and future generations, as well as all species on Earth. Our moral obligation to protect life requires us to act.”
I guess it’s the ‘tepid response’ that makes Brulle think we were duped. And it’s true that Americans, like people everywhere, have put addressing climate change at the bottom of their priority lists. But why does he limit his criticism to Americans then? The U.S. response–regulations, higher fuel efficiency standards, a move away from coal–have led to our meeting the goals of the Kyoto Treaty America did not sign. Not only that, American policy, combined with unfortunate economics and a boom in natural gas, have produced better results than found in countries with public reaction more congenial to Brulle’s taste.
Brulle cites the amazing evidence that fossil fuel companies knew something about climate change back in the 80s. Well, they knew as much as scientists everywhere, which back in the 80s was not so much.
So did the public. And it is the public that consumes the products of the fossil fuel companies. If you want to blame someone, blame us. We had non-fossil fuel options available to us. But we all thought solar power was still too expensive. We thought that hydroelectric power disturbed the landscape and was not good for wildlife. We thought energy efficiency was for nerds and insulation roughed up our hands. So we kept using fossil fuels, as did business, as did government.
Brulle writes, “For years, ExxonMobil had been a participant in public efforts to sow doubt about climate change. Yet at at the same time, the corporation was at the leading edge of climate science and its executives were well informed regarding the scientific consensus on climate change.”
I don’t remember Exxon messages ‘sowing doubt.’ There was a lot of doubt about climate change up until 1990 or so. Their scientists published in the peer-reviewed literature–what were they hiding?
The scientific consensus on climate change was not clear in the 1980s, nor in the 1990s. The ‘fingerprint’ of human contributions to climate change was not even part of IPCC doctrine until the mid-1990s and it was controversially inserted at the last minute.
Hypocritically blaming Exxon for not being 20 years ahead of the science, for actually promoting its products, for giving us the products we craved instead of going out of business and pushing us towards products we did not want.
Brulle is duping himself.