- knowing the science enough to know they're contributing to others suffering
- knowing what might happen with reasonable certainty
- but compartmentalizing that awareness internally to avoid acting
- hiding it externally
- and keeping doing what they were doing
describes the reactions of most individuals about climate change.
It's like we never learn and then those who are in charge made rules to make it even harder to learn as we went forward.
Also that humans are terrible at existential threats.
Personally I believe that the amount of human suffering that will be caused by climate change will be small, but I'm unable to really discern whether motivated reasoning lead me to this conclusion. The evidence presented by both sides about the amount of human suffering that will be caused is highly questionable.
Unless it can be demonstrated scientifically that humans are the primary cause of climate change (despite what you hear that causality is not established) I don't think there is any case what so ever unless some weird inconsequential settlement.
A life without fossil fuel is a life most of us don't want to live.
So sure there are drawbacks with using fossil fuels just as there were with using wood or just as there is with dong or other lesser versions of fuel.
But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. We wouldn't have this conversation if it wasn't for fossil fuel.
Last but not least. This smells of politics, not of justice. NY is trying to push for a much more green profile. So it's likely to do with that probably as an attempt at getting de-blasio nominated (yes politics is that scruppules)
This is downright silly. Sure I have a cellphone, car but I don't live for those things. I live for the people around me, and they are not made of fossil fuel.
It's silly to claim you can live without which is why we don't and aren't even close to doing that in the rich countries.
It's silly to claim we are entirely reliant on fossil fuels for all our modern conveniences, when everything but cars/trucks/shipping is mostly energy source independent and the grid is overall greener than it has ever been in decades, and getting greener. (And we certainly have the technology to solve cars/trucks/shipping today, too.)
We aren't close to doing anything even in rich countries. Wind and solar is less than 1% of world energy. And even in countries that are rich the cost is pushed onto the consumers just ask Germany.
Oh, look, Matt Levine actually references this case at the top of that article. Unexpected recursion detected.
 - https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-06-26/everyt...
Yes, LOTS of people lie to make money. Yes, all those people are doing something wrong. And yes, that wrong thing is bad enough for society that we should punish it.
"Everything" is not fraud. Telling lies to make money is the definition of fraud. If you think that describes "everything" that happens in the economy... Well, stop telling lies.
And yes, lots of fraud is impossible to prove because the actors know the law. Patent trolling comes to mind.
And yes, lots of powerful people commit fraud throughout their career in impunity. Fraud is normal.
However, the normalcy of fraud and of getting away with deviancy does not make fraud acceptable.
I'm routinely astounded by how surprised people are to learn that telling lies to make money is illegal.
Tech in particular needs to do something about the fact fraud has reached meme status in our industry ('fake it till you make it').
— Cixin Liu, The Dark Forest
If they told investors that climate change was a major threat (as they may have been legally be obliged to?) then that information would have become available to the wider public.
Also, we allow public companies to exist knowing that they will be more open and transparent than private companies. If a private company does something evil, we can knock on the owner's door. You can't do that if it's public. It's a trade-off - we don't hold an owner responsible but there's a requirement for more disclosure. If they're breaking the rules that usually stop public companies turning evil, then it's very clearly a concern.
The law doesn't really subscribe to the theory of exclusive victimhood any more than it does to the theory (also popular in internet discussion groups) of exclusive responsibility; for any individual act the law has no problem with their being a number of different responsible parties (and even different classes of responsibile parties) and/or a number of different (classes of) victims.
In the US publicly traded companies have a duty to let their shareholders know all material risks to the company that the company is aware of.
The response to this is usually “but everyone knows about climate change”. But that is not the case. By now everyone has heard of climate change but many still don't believe it/dispute it. You can call these people stupid and uneducated but they are entitled to the same protections under the law which means that they have a right to be alerted to the potential danger to their investments posed by climate change. I am sure even the more ignorant would pay more attention if the climate change warnings came directly from an oil company they are thinking of investing in.
Furthermore, the NYAG says he has evidence that Exxon knew it was happening as long as 30 years ago. Back in the late 80s and early 90s climate change was far from settled thing.
I was under the assumption that the basic tennets of climate change were well understood by scientists more than 100 years ago. While the climate models have been developed only recently, enabling more accurate predictions, climate science is centuries old as it relates to understanding human impact on our climate.
Climate science was as "settled" in the 80s and 90s as it is today. Yes, the predictions are more accurate today, but the confidence that we are changing Earth's climate was just as strong then as now.
I remember in 1997-8 being taught in US public schools, in no uncertain terms, that we are changing the climate, warming the atmosphere into a runaway greenhouse effect. This was in the US South in a very red state that mostly denies climate science today. The only way to interpret the idea that climate science was "less settled" in the 80s 90s is political. It has been "settled" for 100+ years in rational scientific discourse.
Yes, and 45% of the population believe in ghosts , 29% of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim  and 40% of Americans believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old , so frankly I put very little stock in what the average Joe thinks these days.
There has been a constant propaganda campaign waged in the media by people who have an interest in maintaining the status quo regarding extractive industries, and a rather large proportion of the population has eaten it all up.
Nobody disputes climate change since climate has been changing for billions of years, just the human contribution towards it. Also, many people consider the distinction important...
It’s also peak capitalism, where only investors matter.
Part  covers the beginnings of Exxon's own climate research in the late 70s, and the findings of their scientists, which was approximately accurate to modern climate behavior today, 40 years later. Back in 1979, Exxon outfitted some of their ships with equipment to detect CO2 absorption in the ocean along their routes; Exxon was, at the time, one of the leading climate research organizations in the world.
Part  covers some of Exxon's research and findings in more detail.
Part  describes the climate models that Exxon's researchers developed in the early 80s, and some of the early decisions that corporate leadership made to downplay the implications of these models and search for other poorly-founded ideas that might rebut them.
Part  is about Exxon's discovery of and response to a major CO2 source in the South China Sea.
Part  briefly talks about synthetic fuel technology under development in the 1980s and the impact that early climate science might have had on exploring that technology.
And  finally gets to the meaty part where, after well over a decade of their own research efforts were telling them otherwise, company executives began a misinformation campaign through the 90s and 2000s, downplaying the certainty of climate science and its potential effects.
You can also explore a pile of internal Exxon documents yourself .
The comparison between energy companies and tobacco companies is apt. There is no doubt that, even as Exxon duped an entire legion of people into believing that climate science was "uncertain", internally they had solid research demonstrating the effects their practices would have on the global climate.
It's fair to say that climate change skeptics have been arguing against Exxon's own research. They just didn't know they were arguing against Exxon's research, because Exxon lied, repeatedly, to the public.
Their executives did not want to accept the potential liability associated with the findings of their own internal research.
At least IL AGs havent been dumb enough to do this. They know if they go national, the corruption will be exposed and they'll go to jail. Typically, if they keep the corruption in state, they can get away with it. We, the people of Illinois, have largely become desensitized to corruption and has become a running joke. I mean, something like 6 or 7 of our last 11 governors have served time for corruption, and that spans both parties.
Or perhaps they are active against multinational corporations but arent physically close enough to the media for it to ever surface?
Then, it's simply a matter of experience: corporate and especially financial law is beyond complex, and they have the expertise, plus the financial resources, to investigate such cases. New York law is also similarly ahead.
And, of course, the majority of Attorneys General are currently Republican and have absolutely no interest interfering with corporations unless those happen to be involved in journalism, renewable energy or other despicably altruistic lines of business.
The parts that are not functioning are the legislature and executive branch.
a. we need them as there are no alternatives currently
b. everybody with just a little gray matter under their skull knew that burning fossil fuels is not good for the environment, and our health.
That being said, I do think one could make a strong argument that Exxon lied to investors through omittance of a truth that they new. Not that they were harming the environment, but that they misrepresented risk to the business due to environmental harm.
Are there previous examples of a lawsuit over a company misleading shareholders about potential future liabilities, where the liabilities are still unknown? We still don't know how much business Exxon might lose, or how much its penalties might be, as a result of climate change. So how would you calculate which shareholders lost how much?
This article just discusses preparations for the opening arguments due to commence.
 - https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-underwood-files-lawsuit-a...
 - https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/summons_and_complaint_...
I don't expect anything good to come from politics under the pretense of saving the planet.
Based on cynical assumptions, I'm guessing that the NY AG actually has an axe to grind about ExxonMobil's political/PR efforts regarding climate change, but couldn't pursue them because of First Amendment protections.
And so the AG is grasping at other legal straws within the same general topic area.
Rough justice? Maybe for the victims. Exxon should feel very lucky if it stops at losing this lawsuit. Of course, this is the US, where real punishments are reserved for individuals, and large companies are effectively outside the law.
If I misunderstood the article or missing something crucial in it, I apologize.
See "natural draft cooling towers": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooling_tower
We're 20 yrs into the 21 century FFS. You'd think we'd woken up already.
I would be surprised if the NY AG didn’t run for president some day. They clearly seem intent on finding creative ways to do others’ jobs. E.g. the sting on supplements that’s didn’t contain their supposed ingredients (FDA, which should at least close loopholes in this kind of fraud), promises to prosecute Trump for tax evasion (IRS), and fraud over climate change (EPA)
Yes, they are a subset of the broader public, but it's unlikely they are a representative sample of the whole. In fact, being shareholders immediately bakes a bias into their thoughts and actions. That bias alone separates them from The Public.
Yes, they are members of the public. No, they are not synonymous with The Public.
And they haven't. You did. (Plural You if that wasn't obvious.)
I would be surprised if a 5 trillion fine would not achieve that goal...
Makes me feel we're doomed and incapable of focusing on real challenges.
What, really? Isn't that the definition of fraud?
It does not have to be "instead". Can be in addition to. These things are not mutually exclusive. NYAG does what they can in their power.
Even if this case were about whether Exxon was supplying a demand, which is dubious (most of their consumers were industrial, and individuals had no other options), they still suppressed research about the environmental impact of the product.
You can't argue "free market" when the seller is part of an oligopoly and abused its enormous power to misinform the public and buy politicians.
Even though I shouldn't try to disprove anyhting that hasn't been proven in the first place. Think about this:
When anyone purchases anything there will always be a million things they would disapprove about the product (how it's produced, how its workers are treated, how environment friendly it is, how much advertisers lie about it, what the company does with profits, does the company use unfair competition practices, does the company avoid taxes and so on and so on) but purchase it anyway because there is no alternative. The critical error and monumental stupidity is to use this purchase as a signal of approval of everything the consumer actually disapproves of.
> After seeing the absolutely bonkers car culture that America has, then yes.
The planet is a lot more than just America.
In any case, my understanding is that all of Exxon's research was publicly available, so investors could look at it and judge for themselves what they thought the risks were. The idea that Exxon executives were supposed to make their own scientific determination regarding the magnitude of the effect of CO2 on climate - an issue that has since then been the subject of 40 years of intensive debate in the scientific community - is absurd.
Yes, absurd. This is not a good-faith law suit. It is political intimidation and extortion.
But the investors made lots of money. It doesn't make sense.
The idea that anything Exxon did had a major influence on the debate about the effect of CO2 on climate is ridiculous. Many billions of dollars have been spent on climate research by governments. Are we to believe that a few scientists at Exxon had it all figured out 40 years ago? And then because Exxon executives didn't decide their product was evil and therefore exit the industry, nobody else realized the truth, even though the reports by the Exxon scientists were published...?
It doesn't make sense.
Now, it is true that companies sometimes state widely known information in their annual reports. Things like "the company's profitability could be affected by a change in consumer tastes that reduces demand for our product". (Not followed by any actual analysis of how likely this is, I note.) I assume such nonsense is due to lawyers trying to defend against other lawyers whose ethics don't deter them from filing lawsuits like this one.
Here's an old scientific article talking about it, if you're interested. [PDF] http://www.rsc.org/images/Arrhenius1896_tcm18-173546.pdf
Amazing that we have had so much time to think about this problem.
This is ridiculous.
No one knew about climate change 30 years ago. A small number of scientists were aware of the possibility of climate change - it took some 30 years of research, heavily dependent on modeling capability which was only really unlocked in the last decade or so, to come to any sort of alarmist consensus, not to mention less than 30 years ago the consensus was one of global cooling.
Sure, in hindsight, it all seems obvious, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we're talking about terraforming a planet on the scale of 100 years. You'd be crazy to believe in such a thing without some hard data to back that up.
Meanwhile let's ignore that society, globally, has advanced - technologically and socially - on the back of petroleum fuel. We all may be paying a price, but we are all partaking in the reward.
It's not ridiculous. I was taught about the carbon cycle, greenhouse gasses, and climate change in a United States public high school in 1993. 26 years ago.
>Meanwhile let's ignore that society, globally, has advanced - technologically and socially - on the back of petroleum fuel.
Sure, but society has provided massive subsidies (both direct and indirect) to carbon-based fuels. Had we not provided those subsidies, society would be much better off.
Climate is a complex, chaotic system. Again, there was no certainty regarding warming without the decades of research, data gathering, and modeling that followed. Knowledge of the carbon cycle and greenhouse potential is not enough alone to prove that the planet is warming from human activities. And, again, 20 years ago the consensus was that of global cooling, to emphasize the degree of uncertainty in the historic consensus. You're underestimating the gravity of the notion that we are terraforming, modifying global climate, which normally changes over 10^4-10^6 years, on the scale of 10^2, 2-4 orders of magnitude difference. No time in history have humans even been able to do such a thing, let alone had they reason to believe that it were even possible.
>Sure, but society has provided massive subsidies (both direct and indirect) to carbon-based fuels. Had we not provided those subsidies, society would be much better off.
Much better off without fuel for local and global shipping and power generation and raw material for plastics?
No. That's an absurd characterization of my position. I do believe we're much better off when the market, absent direct and indirect subsidies, finds the most efficient solution. That _may_ mean less shipping, more efficient power generation (trading CapEx for OpEx), and more efficient use of plastics.
The historic certainty of climate change is being vastly overstated, neglecting the critical role that petroleum has played in the development of modern infrastructure and society in a blind rush to find some evil to blame. Science is built on skepticism.
Science is far more than theoretical speculation. Grand claims require development of supporting theory and evidence. Even the consensus regarding climate change has been rather quick to form considering the enormity of the claims and how young the field of modern science is.