Drilled: The Climate Crime of the Century

A newly released podcast, Drilled, “investigates the crime of the century — the creation of climate denial.”

The eight part series takes listeners back in time to the inception of climate change denial. It tells the story of the special interests that launched campaigns against evolving climate science and the momentum created by this science, starting in the late 1980s and sustained through the 2000s. Guided by documents uncovered by reporters, academics, and activists in recent years, Drilled exposes the campaign of climate denial as a successful public relations endeavor undertaken by the fossil fuel industry and allies.

The podcast utilizes primary source documents, such as internal corporate correspondence, leaked plans, government records, and interviews with former fossil fuel industry scientists to illuminate this little known history. The collection of documents hosted on Climate Files and featured in Drilled outline a story of corporate knowledge and deceit. This history is critical in understanding why climate science has become a “political” issue today and the origin of denial rhetoric that permeates society today, right up to President Trump.

Interviewed for the podcast, CIC’s Kert Davies leads the listener through documents which illustrate corporate knowledge of climate science as early as the 1950s as well as industry campaigns to actively mislead the public. As these documents show, some of the largest oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon, were studying the severity of climate change long before it became an issue most people were aware of and well before the policy arena started to take action in the late 1980s.

Read the Drilled documents yourself:

Highlights from CIC research and Climate Files that were covered in Drilled:

Internal Shell Documents:

In 1998, Shell predicted an inevitable backlash, including climate liability lawsuits against “fossil-fuel companies on the grounds of neglecting what scientists (including their own) have been saying for years,” long before the first climate lawsuit was ever filed.

What Exxon Knew:

Illustrating their awareness of the risks posed by climate change, Exxon’s own scientists suggested in 1981 “it is distinctly possible” that climate change could “produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic,” and despite that knowledge, the corporation for decades funded attempts to discredit the scientific consensus that their own research helped shape.

The Global Climate Coalition:

Exxon, not alone in its agenda, emphasized uncertainty with a suite of fossil-reliant corporations and trade associations by funding contrarian scientists, think tanks, and front groups that adopted the industry’s support of fossil fuel consumption.  

The Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a prominent ringleader of 1990s corporate climate denial pressure, was a consortium of fossil fuel corporations and trade associations. Along with other groups, the GCC devoted extensive time, money and effort into changing the climate narrative.

Contrary to the scientific certainty expressed internally by Exxon’s scientists in the 1970’s, in 1996, the GCC stated that there was “no convincing evidence that future increases in greenhouse gas concentrations will produce significant climatic effects.” The industry coalition actively worked to derail international climate negotiations, oppose action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote the views of climate skeptics.  

Trade Association Denial Campaigns

Knowledge of additional industry funded climate denial is extensive. A trail of documents such as the American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 leaked “Global Climate Science Communications Plan” and the Edison Electric Institute’s half a million dollar denial “Information Council on the Environment” (ICE) campaign in 1991 detail industry attempts to derail public faith in climate science and expose a history corporations now wish they could make disappear.

Willie Soon investigation:

Receiving over a million dollars from fossil fuel entities, Willie Soon is one of the most blatant examples of a climate denying scientist being paid by industry interests up until a few years ago.

Fred Palmer:

Fred Palmer, a career climate denier, ran the “ICE” campaign while at the Western Fuels Association, a consortium of coal utilities and suppliers. He later worked as Peabody Coal’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations, before joining the climate denying Heartland Institute where he runs their coal campaign.  Palmer once said “every time you turn your car on, and you burn fossil fuels, and you put CO2 in the air, you are doing the work of the Lord.” a sentiment he has expressed repeatedly.

Listen to the podcast Drilled for yourself.

The impacts of climate change we are seeing today are happening faster than scientists predicted one or two decades ago. These consequences are too profound to allow the history of who has held us back from solving this crisis to slip silently into the past. Drilled is one step forward in remembering this history, keeping it alive in our consciousness as we look ahead to charting a better future.

Find it on Itunes, Spotify, or anywhere else you stream podcasts.

Posted by Climate Investigations Center