Will Exxon Be Responsible for the Demise of All Life?

Doomsday articles like this one are rightly taken with a grain of salt. The demise of all life, after all, is heavy stuff. But it’s not my life I’m talking about. I’ll be long gone before “the demise” happens. But the scientists are scared shitless, so there just might be something to it.

Way back in the seventies Exxon took leave of their senses and did some actual science. They took a long look at the future, and what it would be like if things continued just as they were. What they found startled the scientists, because it came to light that without major changes, Exxon and everyone else would bring about warming of the entire planet, with dire consequences.

By their calculations this would mean that the oceans would become way deeper, and the longer we went along without major changes in the way we did things, the worse it would be. Radical changes were needed at least by 1980.

So the scientists told management what they had found. At first it seemed like Exxon would do the right thing, but soon their primary motivation, profit, took over. The scientific findings were deep-sixed into the long-term storage vault rumored to be somewhere under the Hudson River.

The executive officers of Exxon, with a chance to literally save the world, decided that profit was more important than survival of all life. It was only in recent years that the story was told, which is why I nominate every top management officer who knew about these studies to receive the worst we can devise.

But maybe Exxon shouldn’t be the winner after all.

Maybe the winner should be Senator James Inhofe, whose book The Greatest Hoax, claims planetary warming is something cooked up by conspiring scientists to get more grant money. Of course he doesn’t attempt to explain how tens of thousands of scientists in different specialties all over Earth could have managed to conspire without the rest of us finding out about it, or how tens of thousands of scientific papers in dozens of languages could have all reached the same conclusion. In fact, his greatest “proof” of the hoax occurred one February day in 2012 (I believe it was winter) when he brought a snowball onto the Senate floor.

Now, some other idiot senator might simply be dismissed along with the rest of the herd, but Inhofe is head of the agency— the Environment and Public Works Committee—most directly in charge of the national response to global warming. That’s why he has been the one person in the world most responsible for our failure to act, because he refuses to do anything at all. Because the US was the world’s greatest polluter until China slipped into first place a few months ago, if the US does nothing, why should anyone else?

Then there’s Congressman Lamar Smith, also placed by wise Republicans as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who has received over $600,000 in campaign donations from Big Oil. Much of his time is spent trying to force a halt to independent climate research because they don’t support his ideological beliefs. Oh Lordy.

These guys never change their minds, and they never base their opinions on the findings of science. They don’t have to. They are Republicans.

Here is why the award should go to Exxon or Inhofe. Or Smith. Exxon had a golden opportunity to quite literally save the world. But the geniuses in the corner offices knew that profit was more important than survival of all life. Inhofe also had a golden opportunity, a golden opportunity to study the evidence and actually think about it. But his mind was already made up, and he wasn’t interested in facts, especially 10,000 scientific papers. Too much thinking.

Oh come on, Pennington. You sound like one of those guys in cartoons carrying a sign that says “THE END IS NIGH.” Or one of those Rapture guys who keep getting the date wrong. I wish, but unfortunately it really looks as bad as science tells us.

A recent conclusion of climate scientists was that a global temperature rise of a mere 1.5ºC will put the planet on a warming course that will continue for hundreds of years, possibly thousands. We are very, very close to crossing that Rubicon, from which there can be no return.

It’s not just that the oceans might increase their depth by well over a hundred feet, drastically transforming the remaining land, and making it impossible for all of the expected population of twelve billion or more to survive. In fact, no one can survive when the temperature reaches 125ºF. This is the temperature at which we cannot cool our bodies enough by sweating to avoid heat stroke and death. Those who paid attention over the past two years noted that parts of Pakistan, India, and elsewhere came dangerously close to those conditions, and many thousands died. It is so hot during the Hajj that Saudi Arabia had streets that sprayed water on pilgrims. Recently, scientists warned that the entire region may be too hot to support human life by the end of the century. It’s hard to see how India, Southeast Asia, and equatorial Africa will be any better.

Think about this. Europe is having difficulty absorbing those fleeing war in Syria, total population 23M. Saudi Arabia total population 29M; Pakistan 182M; India 1.2 billion… Where will these people go?

We some time ago exceeded the level of carbon dioxide considered the maximum treatable, 350 ppm. The level now is in the neighborhood of 420 ppm, and that will continue to increase even if we suddenly stop producing it, because CO2 takes several years to make its presence known in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, we continue to increase the release of CO2.

So who gets the award, the Exxon bosses or James Inhofe?

Climate change won’t kill me, because I’m already old. But if you are very young you or your children could be the last generation of the genus Homo.


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