Walking along the quiet shore here in Gibsons it’s hard to believe that in Alberta 800 square kilometers are burning, displacing over 4000 people and it’s only May. That’s about 16 times the size of Bowen Island or 2½ times the size of Texada Island. It’s going to be a hot summer, bad for forest fires, good for breweries.
My friend Campbell, Camp to all, was already sitting at our favourite table on the veranda of our sea side pub, thumbing through his smart phone which he quickly pocketed when he saw me. It didn’t take him long to inform me what he was looking at.
‘There is a graphic circulating on the net from 1982, and it predicts the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere until the end of the 21st century. The fascinating part is that the amount of the concentration for 2019 corresponds exactly with the amount measured on the 11th of May on top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which is 415.26ppm. Also the graphic’s temperature curve is amazingly accurate. It shows an increase of 0.9 degrees since 1960. The global warming comes in at about 1 degree since pre-industrial times. The most amazing fact about this 37year old document is its author: Non other then Exxon Mobile.’
‘Wow, so they knew all along’, I said.
‘Yes, they were fully aware of the implications of burning off fossil fuels and the destruction of the world’s tropical forests. At that time the ppm concentration sat at 340ppm.’
‘That reminds me of the Tabaco companies who knew their products caused cancer but in the name of profit and greed kept that information to themselves,’ I said.
‘There are parallels,’ Camp said, ‘but mind you, some of the results of the Exxon research are coincidental. Nobody really knows the exact amount of CO2 emissions world wide, and we also don’t know exactly how much carbon dioxide the world’s oceans and vegetation can store.’
‘I’m surprised that nobody took notice at the time?’ I said.
‘Exxon actually published some of their findings and even warned shareholders of the dangerous consequences of burning fossil fuels for the worlds climate, predicting floods and storms and even the arctic ice melt and the rise of the oceans.’
‘I thought they did the opposite,’ I said. ‘I remember something like a group of Oil companies and car makers that disputed the climate science of the day.’
‘That was the ‘Global Climate Coalition’, Camp said. ‘They disbanded after they found an ally in George W. Bush and today they have their best friend in the White House.’
‘A crazy world we live in,’ I said, holding on to my pint. ‘Considering that 8 billion people only make up about 1/10’000 of the earth’s biomass in carbon. 80 percent is made up by plants, bacteria comes in second at 13 percent and fungus comes in with the bronze medal at 2 percent.’
‘Wow, where did you get that?’ Camp asked.
‘On Smithonian.com. The biomass of fungi exceeds that of all animals, us included,’ I said, ‘it gives you a whole new perspective on fungi.’
‘But I bet the impact we’re having on the planet is not so insignificant,’ Camp said.
‘You’re right there. According to the article, humans, along with their livestock, outweigh all other wild mammals 20 times. And in the last 10’000 years human activity slashed plant biomass by half and reduced wild mammals by 85 percent.’
‘And counting,’ Camp said, finishing his pint.
‘Looks like we’re ready for another,’ Rosie, our server today, said.
‘Rosie, did you know that 2 pints of beer a day lowers the risk of heart disease?’ Camp asked.
‘All I know is that people who have two pints of beer in them are a lot less stressed,’ Rosie said. ‘In other words, relax, your refills are on their way.’
‘Life is just that simple,’ Camp said.
And, as we discussed some time ago, not only did Exxon know all of this, but they have since made a number of deft moves to ensure that their stock price does not suffer the same damage as the planet. Their PR team first suggested a program of outright denial, then, when that was no longer plausible, they followed with a strategy of questioning the science, suggesting that nothing could be known or said definitively. Their third (and hopefully final) PR gambit goes like this: suggest to the public that every one of us is responsible – and if everyone is responsible, no-one is. I think this scheme has been the most effective of all; I hear it parroted in newspapers and magazines, and, unfortunately, by my friends.
Someday I hope to see prison sentences for these men and for those who have aided and abetted their historic crime.