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Peter Lemkin
10-19-2015, 03:43 PM
Two degree Celsius warming locks in sea level rise for thousands of years Date: October 18, 2015 Source: University of New South Wales Summary: A jump in global average temperatures of 1.5°C to 2°C will see the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves and lead to hundreds and even thousands of years of sea level rise, according to new research.
http://images.sciencedaily.com/2015/10/151018213808_1_540x360.jpg
Paradise Bay, Antarctica (stock image).
Credit: © mrallen / Fotolia



A jump in global average temperatures of 1.5°C-2°C will see the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves and lead to hundreds and even thousands of years of sea level rise, according to new research published in Nature.
The research highlights the moral significance of decisions made now about mitigating climate change.
An international team led by Dr Nicholas Golledge, a senior research fellow at New Zealand's Victoria University's Antarctic Research Centre, published the study 'The multi-millennial Antarctic commitment to future sea-level rise', which predicts how the Antarctic ice-sheet will respond to future atmospheric warming.
Using state-of-the-art computer modelling, Dr Golledge and his colleagues including researchers from UNSW simulated the ice-sheet's response to a warming climate under a range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios. They found in all but one scenario (that of significantly reduced emissions beyond 2020) large parts of the Antarctic ice-sheet were lost, resulting in a substantial rise in global sea-level.
"The long reaction time of the Antarctic ice-sheet -- which can take thousands of years to fully manifest its response to changes in environmental conditions -- coupled with the fact that CO₂ lingers in the atmosphere for a very long time means that the warming we generate now will affect the ice sheet in ways that will be incredibly hard to undo," Dr Golledge said.
The 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicted that the Antarctic ice sheet would contribute only five centimetres to global sea-level rise by the end of this century even for its warmest emissions scenario.
But Professor Tim Naish, who worked with Dr Golledge on the study and was also a lead IPCC author, said that when the report was written there was insufficient scientific knowledge about how the Antarctic ice sheet might respond to future warming. Those sea-level projections could have been too modest.
"Our new models include processes that take place when ice sheets come into contact with the ocean, he said.
"Around 93% of the heat from anthropogenic global warming has gone into the ocean, and these warming ocean waters are now coming into contact with the floating margins of the Antarctic ice sheet, known as ice shelves. If we lose these ice shelves, the Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise by 2100 will be nearer 40 centimetres."
To avoid the loss of the Antarctic ice shelves, and a long-term commitment to many metres of sea-level rise, atmospheric warming needs to be kept below 2°C above present levels.
"Missing the 2°C target will result in an Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise that could be up to 10 metres higher than today," Dr Golledge said.
"The stakes are obviously very high -- 10 percent of the world's population lives within 10 metres of present sea level."
What makes the report particularly compelling is the way the results were reached.
"The striking thing about these findings is that we have taken the most conservative estimates possible," said co-author of the paper, Dr Chris Fogwill from UNSW Australia's Climate Change Research Centre.
"In all IPCC global warming scenarios, only one (RCP2.6) saw Antarctic ice shelves avoid ongoing collapse. In every other case we saw significant collapse and rising sea levels continue for hundreds to thousands of years.
"The results suggest Antarctic ice shelf stability has a tipping point dependent on a critical temperature threshold that can lead to substantial sea level rise even if we reduce emissions after that threshold has been reached."
The findings raise an ethical decision for us all, according to Dr Golledge.
"Without significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next couple of decades, we will commit the Antarctic ice sheet to ongoing and widespread melting for the next few thousand years. Is that something for which we really want to be responsible?"
Dr Golledge said the time has come for some serious questions to be answered.
"It becomes an issue of whether we choose to mitigate now for the benefit of future generations or adapt to a world in which shorelines are significantly re-drawn.
"In all likelihood we're going to have to do both, because we are already committed to 25 centimetres by 2050, and at least 50 centimetres of sea-level rise by 2100."
According to Dr Golledge the last time CO₂ concentrations in the atmosphere were similar to present levels was about three million years ago.
"At that time average global temperatures were two or three degrees warmer, large parts of the Antarctic ice-sheet had melted, and sea-levels were a staggering 20 metres higher than they are now."
"We're currently on track for a global temperature rise of a couple of degrees which will take us into that ballpark, so there may well be a few scary surprises in store for us, possibly within just a few hundred years."


Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials (http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/2-degree-celsius-warming-locks-sea-level-rise-thousands-years) provided by University of New South Wales (http://www.unsw.edu.au). The original item was written by Alvin Stone. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal References:


N. R. Golledge, D. E. Kowalewski, T. R. Naish, R. H. Levy, C. J. Fogwill, E. G. W. Gasson. The multi-millennial Antarctic commitment to future sea-level rise. Nature, 2015; 526 (7573): 421 DOI: 10.1038/nature15706 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature15706)
Alexander Robel. Climate science: The long future of Antarctic melting. Nature, 2015; 526 (7573): 327 DOI: 10.1038/526327a (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/526327a)

Lauren Johnson
10-20-2015, 06:15 AM
It has been quite the week for climate change news: We’ve learned that scientists can now quantify (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/12/this-is-how-rising-seas-will-reshape-the-face-of-the-united-states/) the United States’ expected levels of inundation by rising seas, that droughts in the Amazon could triple (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/12/climate-change-could-triple-amazon-drought-study-finds/), and much more (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/12/why-the-earths-past-has-scientists-so-worried-about-the-atlantic-oceans-circulation/).

But the most troubling research — depending, that is, on how you interpret it — may have appeared in a less-noticed, first-of-its-kind study (http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1511451112) just published in the influential Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, the researchers attempted something that seems never to have been successfully done before. Namely, they mined the data from a large suite of computerized climate change simulations, or models, to determine how often they produced abrupt and disruptive changes in a few decades or even less — surely the most feared impact of climate change.

The result — that out of 37 abrupt changes detected in these climate simulations, fully 18 of them occurred at temperature levels less than 2 degrees Celsius of warming — is simultaneously dramatic and yet also difficult to assess. Models, after all, are mathematically sophisticated simulacra that embed scientists’ best current physical understanding of how the Earth system and its components work, but still should not be confused with reality.

Nonetheless, the authors — led by Sybren Drijfhout, a professor at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute — assert that their results represent a sign of how unstable the future could really be, even before we reach warming levels of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (often thought of as a kind of guardrail in international climate negotiations). “It is likely that the Earth system will experience sharp regional transitions at moderate warming,” they write, “although the prediction of any particular event has a very high uncertainty.”

So what’s going on here — and should we really believe this?

Mining models for major disruptions. The study — which Drijfhout undertook with a large team of researchers at institutes in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and France — is in effect a massive “big data” inquiry into an urgent mystery about climate change. That mystery is this: When, precisely, can a relatively slow and steady rate of global warming trigger abrupt or sudden shifts in particular regions or Earth systems?

The topic has been much discussed — but also remains very murky. So to examine it in a new way, the researchers looked at the results of no less than 37 separate computerized climate change simulations, or models, which were used in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 assessment report of the state of climate science. Each model’s results were examined out to the year 2100 — or farther, in cases where that was possible — under different assumptions about levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and resulting planetary warming.



In doing this, the work is entering new territory. “There has been no systematic study of the potential for abrupt shifts in state-of-the-art Earth System Models,” the research noted, calling the paper “a first step toward a robust assessment of abrupt change.”

And sure enough, the models did produce many abrupt changes — but they were also rarely in agreement with one another. Some changes — for instance, a massive oceanic algal bloom in the Indian Ocean in the next century, which only appeared in one model — are dismissed by the researchers as a possible fluke. “That’s the one we are really most unsure about,” says Drijfhout.

On the other hand, other changes that showed up more frequently are precisely the types of things that scientists have long forecast might result from a warming of the climate. For instance, multiple models showed rapid collapses of Arctic sea ice, particularly in extreme global warming scenarios. And multiple models also produced partial or full shutdowns of circulation in the North Atlantic— a change that sometimes occurred for only moderate levels of warming (less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels).

“A striking feature is that the majority of abrupt transitions occur in the ocean-sea ice system, implying that this Earth system component is more prone to abrupt change than other components,” the research added. “These are very nonlinear processes that are reasonably well resolved in the models,” says Drijfhout — suggesting that if they turn up again and again, they may be something that can really happen in the real world.

Other experts react. But here, perhaps, we should pause. Models are not predictions of the future — they’re more about understanding than about forecasting. And when an abrupt change shows up in just one model but not others, that could be simply due to the equations embedded in that particular simulation. Indeed, “no type of abrupt shifts occurs in all models,” the authors say.

Researchers asked to look at the study by The Washington Post offered some criticism, while also noting that the research certainly has consistencies with other evidence about abrupt climate changes. Until now, such work has largely been based on studies of the Earth’s past using so-called “proxy” evidence like ice cores or ocean sediments (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/12/why-the-earths-past-has-scientists-so-worried-about-the-atlantic-oceans-circulation/).

“As the authors note, it’s unclear whether these events are related to specific simplifications or perhaps even bugs in the codes, and without some consistency across models it’s hard to make any useful predictions,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA — which runs one of the models in question — by e-mail. “The places where most of these events occur are not surprising of course — the North Atlantic stands out.”



A similar take came from Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who chaired a National Academy of Sciences panel on abrupt climate change. “Many questions exist about the ability of models to simulate ‘tipping points’ or abrupt changes accurately,” Alley said. “But the paleoclimate record shows clearly that such abrupt jumps have occurred, and this new paper shows that they are fairly common and widespread in the modeled climate system.”

The most critical take came from Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “I don’t find anything in this paper surprising or very illuminating,” he said by e-mail. “The paper does not validate the models to be able to say that any of them are realistic or likely. It is likely that some of these are more the result of model flaws. But it is a start,” Trenberth added.

Drijfhout said by e-mail that he agrees that climate models have not been validated based on their ability to capture abrupt changes — rather, he argues, they are validated based on their ability to capture the present climate and even “tuned” to be good at this. “There is consensus that climate models tend to be more stable than the real climate,” he said in his e-mail. For this reason, Drijfhout believes that models may underestimate its real instability and capability for abrupt shifts.

“In general there seem to be more missed cases than false alarms,” he said.

It’s also important to note that the simulations were not capable of detecting one possible abrupt shift that worries many climate scientists right now — the potential for a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. “They are clearly correct in noting that some potential abrupt events aren’t possible in this class of models — no ice sheet components, or sub-surface methane hydrate routines,” noted Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, by e-mail.

In the end, the most striking finding from the study remains how many abrupt shifts occur — at least in the models — with relatively modest levels of warming. Granted, the paper also acknowledges that abrupt changes weremost likely to occur at the highest warming scenarios.

“There is of course a certain tendency for the whole climate system to become more unstable when the warming gets larger,” said Drijfhout, “but we cannot say, ‘as long as it’s this and this much, nothing will happen.’ Every .1 or .2 degrees in temperature is as dangerous as any other, I would say. And that’s the main message of this exercise, or this paper.”



It remains to be seen how many other scientists agree with this assessment — and whether through future research, they can alter or improve on our abilities to detect truly abrupt climate change scenarios with modern computer simulations.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/15/the-biggest-question-about-climate-change-isnt-if-or-when-its-how-abrupt/

Peter Lemkin
10-20-2015, 06:44 AM
The phenomenon being talked about are called 'tipping points', and are well known in science and have happened in the Earth's past many times and in other physical systems smaller than the entire Earth they are also well known in physics and the sciences.....what is a gradual or even increasing change suddenly becomes a run-away or even irreversible change.

I know many like to play with the notion that climate change now going on is not human induced. Dream on..... This [Environmental Science] is what I got my graduate degrees in [all the other political research is a private passion and avocation]. Yes, one can find some qualified [sic] scientists who deny anthropogenic climate change, but they are getting very few and far between and most of them are on big Energy or Big Business payrolls.

We humans and all the other species are facing something way out of our depth to control - despite it being of our creation. Our own naivete and denial, along with the rich's propaganda machinery is letting the chance to stop this catastrophe for all living things on the Planet from coming to pass. Yes, some life will survive, but most species will not [most large creatures in the oceans are down by 50% and more just since WW2!] - and most humans will either not survive or will suffer horribly.

Peter Lemkin
10-21-2015, 06:45 PM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin with the latest in the Exxon climate change cover-up that some compare to the deceptions of Big Tobacco. Recent exposés by InsideClimate News (http://insideclimatenews.org/news/15092015/Exxons-own-research-confirmed-fossil-fuels-role-in-global-warming) and the Los Angeles Times (http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-arctic/) revealed that for decades Exxon concealed its own findings that fossil fuels cause global warming, alter the climate and melt the Arctic ice. Exxon scientists’ earliest known warnings on climate change date as far back as 1977. Toward the end of the 1980s, the company radically changed course and openly embraced climate denial. Since then, it has spent millions of dollars funding efforts to reject the climate science its own experts once advanced. Still, even as it spread climate doubt and lobbied against environmental regulation, Exxon’s denial wasn’t across the board. In internal planning kept from the public, the oil giant’s researchers and engineers incorporated climate change projections to determine how best to adapt their operations to a warming planet.
AMY GOODMAN: The bombshell news of Exxon’s climate deception is now sparking calls for a federal investigation. On Tuesday, presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging a Department of Justice probe of Exxon. Another Democratic hopeful, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, tweeted (https://twitter.com/martinomalley/status/655116504699027456), quote, "We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer. Let’s do the same for oil companies & climate change." Two House Democrats from California, Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier, also want a DOJ probe. In a letter to Lynch, they write, quote, "If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon’s actions were immoral. We request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal."
On Tuesday, the prosecutor who won the massive 2006 racketeering case against Big Tobacco for hiding the dangers of smoking agreed. Sharon Eubanks, a former Justice Department attorney now in private practice, told ThinkProgress, quote (http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/10/20/3713761/exxon-climate-denial/), "It appears to me ... that there was a concerted effort by Exxon and others to confuse the public on climate change. They were actively denying the impact of human-caused carbon emissions, even when their own research showed otherwise. ... I think a RICO action is plausible and should be considered."
We’re joined now by two guests: Democratic Congressmember Ted Lieu of California, who co-signed that letter calling for a federal probe of Exxon, and Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org (http://350.org/), one of the nation’s leading environmental activist groups. His recent piece (http://www.thenation.com/article/exxon-knew-everything-there-was-to-know-about-climate-change-by-the-mid-1980s-and-denied-it/) for The Nation is "Exxon Knew Everything There Was to Know About Climate Change by the Mid-1980s—and Denied It." McKibben was just arrested last week after staging a one-man protest at a local Exxon station, in protest of Exxon’s climate denial. He held a sign reading, "This pump temporarily closed because ExxonMobil lied about climate."
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Congressmember Lieu, we’ll start with you. Talk about what you’re calling for right now.
REP. TED LIEU: If the facts are true, I believe Exxon’s actions are shocking and outrageous. And it’s difficult to think of a company that could have set back humanity for decades, and perhaps permanently, but that’s what happened here. In this case, Exxon scientists knew that climate change was happening, that fossil fuels were causing climate change, and not only did they deny that and spread uncertainty and confusion about the science, they then took actions to plan and take advantage of global warming. This is beyond hypocrisy. I’m not even sure what to call it. But I do believe there should be investigation under the RICO racketeering statutes of the federal government to see if they should be prosecuted for their actions.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Congressman Lieu, what most stunned you in terms of the information that’s come out now in the recent exposés?
REP. TED LIEU: That their scientists were on the cutting edge of research on climate science, that they had done tremendous work, that they confirmed global warming was happening, and then top executives essentially shut that down and embarked on a disinformation and confusion campaign simply for profits, at the same time knowing that this could really damage all of humanity. And to me, just how shocking this was really was what stood out to me.
AMY GOODMAN: A recent investigative series (http://insideclimatenews.org/news/15092015/Exxons-own-research-confirmed-fossil-fuels-role-in-global-warming) by the Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization, (http://insideclimatenews.org/), has uncovered that decades ago Exxon was actually on the cutting edge of climate research. This is a clip from the PBS series Frontline, which partnered with InsideClimate News on the project.

NEELA BANERJEE: We found the trail of documents that go back to 1977. Exxon knew carbon dioxide was increasing in the atmosphere, that combustion of fossil fuel is driving it, and that this posed a threat to Exxon. At that time, Exxon understood very quickly that governments would probably take action to reduce fossil fuel consumption. They’re smart people, great scientists, and they saw the writing on the wall.

NARRATION: One Exxon research project outfitted an oil tanker with equipment to measure CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the ocean.

ED GARVEY: We were collecting data, the southern Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the western Indian Ocean. Basically every hour, we would get several measurements. So we had—I called it a data monster.

NARRATION: Today Exxon says the study had nothing to do with CO2 emissions. But scientists involved remember it differently.

ED GARVEY: We were committed. We were doing some serious science. It was a significant budget, I would say on the scale of a million dollars a year. I mean, that was a lot of money in 1979.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ed Garvey. From 1978 to 1983, he was a researcher at Exxon, where he helped start the company’s greenhouse gas research program. Last month (http://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/24/inside_exxons_great_climate_cover_up), he appeared on Democracy Now! and talked about how he felt when Exxon started funding climate deniers.

ED GARVEY: I just think it was an opportunity that was missed, that having developed this knowledge in-house, Exxon was in position to lead the discussion as how to deal with the problem, and instead they really chose to deny the problem. And I think that was really a missed opportunity.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was Exxon scientist Ed Garvey, which brings us to Bill McKibben, who—well, Bill, it’s nice that you’re back home after your arrest at your local Exxon station for protesting the information—protesting what you’ve learned from the information that’s come out in both the Los Angeles Times series as well as InsideClimate [News]. Talk about what has most surprised you. I mean, you’re hard to surprise. You’ve been working on this issue for years now. What is most chilling, if you will, in these documents that have been released?
BILL McKIBBEN: For me, Amy, the thing that really gets me is the kind of realization that Exxon is probably the one institution on Earth that could have short-circuited this 25 years of pretend, faux debate that we’ve been having about climate change. If in 1989, when Jim Hansen from NASA had stood up before Congress and said, "Yeah, the planet is warming," if Exxon at that point had said, "You know what? He’s right. Our internal science, which is very strong in this field, confirms everything that he’s saying. The world has a terrific problem," well, we wouldn’t have solved global warming by now, but we’d be well on the way. We would not have engaged in a quarter-century of denial and debate. Instead, that’s precisely what Exxon funded and underwrote. The most compelling moment of that probably came in, I think, 1997, when the CEO of Exxon stood up before the most powerful people in China and told them that the planet was probably cooling and that the computer models, which Exxon was using at that very moment to guide their own investments—he told them the computer models didn’t work. This was tragic. And the results we now—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bill, if I can interrupt a second, we have a clip from 1996, around that time, of the Exxon CEO, Lee Raymond, speaking about global warming. Let’s hear that.

LEE RAYMOND: Proponents of the global warming theory say that higher levels of greenhouse gases are causing world temperatures to rise and that burning fossil fuels is the reason. The scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities affect the global climate. ... Many scientists agree there’s ample time to better understand climate systems and consider policy options. So there’s simply no reason to take drastic action now.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to Bill McKibben for his response, as well as Congressmember Ted Lieu. This is Democracy Now! We’ll go to them in a minute.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: "Global Warming," recorded in 2009 by a group of musicians from the small island nation of Tuvalu, a country already threatened by climate change. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guests are 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben in Vermont, at home after his arrest at his local Exxon station for saying that Exxon lied, and Los Angeles Congressmember Ted Lieu. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bill McKibben, before the break, we were playing that clip of the speech from the Exxon CEO. Looking back at that now, and also thinking about the reality that in a few weeks there will be a new round of international climate change talks in Paris, the impact of this scandal coming at this time?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, look, the impact of what Exxon did has played out over 25 years and will play out over geologic time. There’s 47 people dead in the Philippines today after the record 20th strong typhoon in the Northern Hemisphere dropped four feet of rain—almost unimaginable—across the Philippines. But something like that happens every day now. We’ve melted the Arctic. We’ve changed the chemistry of the oceans. This is their legacy.
As we move forward, still trying to keep this from getting any more out of control than it is, it’s going to be incredibly important to break the power of the fossil fuel industry. That’s why there’s this huge divestment campaign, that California just joined their retirement funds in participating in. That will help begin to break their power. That’s why we do things like fight pipelines and fracking wells and things, to try and reduce their power.
But, man, if only they had told the truth to begin with. That’s why—I mean, I went to get arrested just because I was afraid that these remarkable exposés at InsideClimate News (http://insideclimatenews.org/news/15092015/Exxons-own-research-confirmed-fossil-fuels-role-in-global-warming) and the L.A. Times (http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-arctic/) would disappear into the media clutter of our lives. This is one of the, if not the most important, investigative coups in decades. And these reporters’ remarkable work deserves to become part of the kind of common understanding of the entire planet about the most significant crisis human beings have ever wandered into.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Bill, can you explain exactly what you did? This action was what? Last Thursday?
BILL McKIBBEN: It was last week. Amy, it was not—this was, you know, not the bridge at Selma. You know, I just sat down in front of the ExxonMobil station, not far away in Vermont, and with a very kind owner, who I was not trying to cause problems to—in fact, I gave him a hundred bucks to make up for any income he might have lost while I was blocking his pump. And eventually the police came and took me away and charged me with trespass. And all it was, you know, as I said at the time, was an effort to get people to read these stories. I’m not sure how well it worked. But later that day, my wife told me that it had been the number one trending thing on Facebook, but then, you know, a couple hours later, she told me it had been replaced by a video of a Corgi dog barking at a miniature pumpkin. So, you know, who knows? But we’re going to do everything we can, everyone who’s working on these issues, to try and make sure that this doesn’t somehow disappear.
Such gratitude to the congressman and his colleague in California, and, of course, to Bernie Sanders, for pressing hard for what needs to happen next, which is a full-on investigation by our Department of Justice—and by the departments of justice all over the world—into the conduct of this, remember, largest corporation in the world. Exxon has made more money three of the last four years than any company in the history of money, OK? So, it’s not like this is some small exception or some outlier or whatever. This is the dead-on heart of the fossil fuel industry, the people who have done everything they can to keep us from addressing climate change.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to—you mentioned Congressman Lieu. I’d like to bring him back into the conversation. A spokesman for Exxon, Richard Keil, has rejected the allegations contained in Congressman Lieu and—in his letter to the Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Keil told The Guardian, quote (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/oct/16/exxonmobil-congress-climate-change-federal-investigation), "This is complete bull-[bleep]. We have a 30 year continuous uninterrupted history of researching climate change and the LA Times for whatever reason chose to ignore that fact." Meanwhile, Exxon continues to demand favors from the government, most recently a lifting of the long-standing ban on exporting American crude. Exxon’s vice president for public and governmental affairs, Kenneth Cohen, told [I]The New York Times, quote (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/business/energy-environment/oil-industry-gaining-in-push-for-repeal-of-us-ban-on-petroleum-exports.html), "The sooner this happens, the better for us." Congressman Lieu, your reaction to the Exxon response to your letter?
REP. TED LIEU: The ExxonMobil spokesperson is out of his mind. He must not have read what his top executives were saying. Exxon appears now to be denying that they were denying climate change. And if you look at what your clips had shown, that’s simply not history. And I want to thank Bill McKibben for his tremendous environmental activism. And what Bill said is correct: There is an issue here not just of taking carbon out of the air—it’s a race. We need to take greenhouse gases out of the air quickly, because at some point we’re going to cross a line—and we may have already crossed it—where it’s going to be very hard to reverse the effects of climate change. And Exxon scientists knew that. They said that there were going to be catastrophic effects if we don’t stop this quickly.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, this L.A. Times piece (http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-arctic/), in addition to the InsideClimate [News] piece (http://insideclimatenews.org/news/15092015/Exxons-own-research-confirmed-fossil-fuels-role-in-global-warming), is fascinating, "What Exxon Knew About the Earth’s Melting Climate"—"About the Earth’s Melting Arctic." And it says, "Ken Croasdale, senior ice researcher for Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, was leading a ... team of researchers and engineers that was trying to determine how global warming could affect Exxon’s Arctic operations and its bottom line." It says, from '86 to ’92, "Croasdale's team looked at both the positive and negative effects that a warming Arctic would have on oil operations, reporting its findings to Exxon headquarters in Houston and New Jersey. The good news for Exxon, he told an audience of academics and government researchers in 1992, was that 'potential global warming can only help lower exploration and development costs' in the Beaufort Sea. But, he added, it also posed hazards, including higher sea levels and bigger waves, which could damage the company’s existing and future coastal and offshore infrastructure, including drilling platforms, artificial islands, processing plants and pump stations. And a thawing earth could be troublesome for those facilities as well as pipelines."
Now, Congressmember Lieu, this is fascinating. It could benefit Exxon because the global warming would melt the Arctic ice and open up the window for them to drill, what, three, four, five months. But, of course, it could also damage them severely.
REP. TED LIEU: I believe there needs to be a new word in the English language created for what Exxon did. They confirmed climate change was happening with their scientists, then their top executives denied it, and then they planned to take advantage of it. That is way beyond hypocrisy. They were doing all of this in the name of profits, and they set back humanity—and may have, in fact, doomed humanity. This is just one company. And it’s just very shocking that they did that.
AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about the parallels to Big Tobacco, what exactly a Justice Department investigation would mean. Bill McKibben has said no corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad. Congressmember Lieu, explain what happens if, as you’re calling for and the presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is demanding, an actual investigation into Big Oil, into Exxon.
REP. TED LIEU: Well, I think it’s tremendous that the former Department of Justice prosecutor who went after Big Tobacco—and won—now believes that the Department of Justice should do an investigation of ExxonMobil and Big Oil. And what happened with tobacco is the federal government used what’s called the RICO statute—it’s a racketeering statute—and they went after tobacco companies for knowing that tobacco products were causing cancer and killing people, and then denying that was happening, making profits from the products that they were selling. There’s a very good parallel here with what Exxon did. They knew that fossil fuels were causing global warming, then their top executives denied the science, spread uncertainty about it, and they profited from that. And I think the Department of Justice should investigate and then prosecute, if the facts warrant prosecution.
AMY GOODMAN: Exxon officials go to jail?
REP. TED LIEU: It would depend on what the investigation shows. But, you know, setting back humanity for decades, and maybe permanently, seems like a pretty high crime to me.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, well, certainly, any kind of a Justice Department investigation or even civil lawsuits that might arise in the future would have the benefit of discovery, of being able to get at the internal records of Exxon, in terms of what the—what the executives knew, when they knew it, and what they did specifically. Bill McKibben, the prospects of that?
BILL McKIBBEN: Good reporters were able to get this much from the outside. You’re absolutely right, Juan. It’s the—that depositions and that discovery process will bring to light things that we need to know, that we deserve to know. This is like tobacco, but, in a sense, it’s much, much larger. You never had to go near a gas pump to be the victim of this particular deception. If you live in some island in the Pacific, if you live in Tuvalu or Vanuatu; or in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean; if you live on low ground in Bangladesh; if you live in the sub-Saharan Africa, where drought is now spreading; or in the Fertile Crescent, not so fertile anymore as it dries out; if you lived in Pakistan, where we saw the most epic flooding the world has ever seen in 2010; if you live in California, where we’re now ping-ponging between severe drought and once-in-a-thousand-year rainfall events that are plugging the highways with mudflows—any of these places and a million more, then you should have standing to say what Exxon did is deeply wrong. And we need to demand that they be somehow made to be part of the solution. They shouldn’t be asking for more favors, more subsidies, more lifting of the oil export ban. Instead, we should be figuring out how to make sure that they and the rest of Big Oil use the money that they’ve piled up to help fund the transition quickly to renewable energy, a transition that would have happened long ago without them in the way, without them dominating our political lives.