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Posted on 28th October 2015
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Another report, from The Los Angeles Times, describes how and why Exxon (now Exxon Mobil) changed from one of the leaders in climate-change research and a public believer in global warming to an apparent skeptic and manipulator of public opinion on climate change, as already mentioned in this posting.
The report cites archived company documents and the recollections of former employees. It seems that Exxon realised around 1990 that a change in public opinion towards more concern about climate change would probably lead to onerous and costly regulations of their industry.
This is the kind of thing that gets industry a well-deserved bad name. Scientific evidence, and the well-being of the planet and its population were ignored in order to make a bigger profit. The company and its officers should be punished for what they did. The problem is that they were doing what the law requires company executives to do: to maximise profits and shareholder value, which is something I have already discussed here. Until corporate law and stock exchange regulations are changed to bring social and environmental responsibility into the mix of their duties, this sort of thing will inevitably continue.
There is, of course, something else that could and should be changed to help prevent this kind of corporate dishonesty and manipulation of of public opinion: the whole system of corporate lobbying in US politics. Why should companies be able to buy influence to the degree that they do? It is undemocratic (in a country that claims to be the world's champion of democracy) and simply wrong.