Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Sydney Morning Herald claims that Exxon Mobil contributed to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Since Exxon is headquartered in Texas, SMH seems to think the suffering of Texans affected by the storm is self-inflicted.
Houston, you have a problem, and some of it of your own making
Yes, Houston, you do have a problem, and – as insensitive as it seems to bring it up just now – some of it is your own making.
Let’s be clear upfront. I unreservedly wish that all of your millions of citizens get safely through Tropical Storm Harvey, and the biblical-scale deluge and floods that are forecast to swamp your city in coming days.
But, as the self-styled “world capital of the oil and gas industry”, there’s a connection between rising global greenhouse gas levels and the extreme weather now being inflicted that some of your residents have understood for decades and had a hand in.
In fact, as an important research paper by Harvard University researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes released last week showed, the largest of them – ExxonMobil – deliberately told the public a story at odds with their own research.
By stoking doubts about the climate change consequences of burning fossils, the behemoth misled voters for four decades, successfully stymieing demands for action in the US and abroad, including in Australia.
Although ExxonMobil is headquartered in another Texan city, Dallas, it bases many operations in Houston. The company has picked Houston to host a sprawling new campus north of the city that will reportedly house 8000 employees.
When the clean-up eventually begins in Houston and other regions battered and drenched in this week’s tempest, questions about what protection will be needed for the next big storm will no doubt surface.
Given its unusual dependence on fossil-fuel industries, though, it will be interesting to watch if Houston queries – tactfully and delicately – its own contribution to the catastrophe.
This desperate chain of maybes is like the magical thinking of the dark ages. Can anyone imagine such mush being written in a mainstream newspaper a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago?