Unprecedented CO2 Crimes: Next time, Let’s Call it “Cyclone ExxonMobil”

By David Ray Griffin, author of “Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?” (Clarity Press, 2015). | –

Cyclone Pam, which this past week caused unprecedented destruction in the South Sea island nation of Vanuatu, should be called Cyclone ExxonMobil.

I took this idea from a comment by Bill McKibben about Hurricane Sandy (“hurricane” is simply another name for a tropical cyclone). After Sandy struck, McKibben said that, “if there were any poetic justice, it would be named Hurricane Chevron or Hurricane Exxon.”

Chevron is certainly a despicable corporation, which has caused much destruction.

But ExxonMobil has been even more responsible for climate disruption, because it, more than any other fossil-fuel corporation, has long been spending millions of dollars every year to buy politicians and fund climate-denial – the denial that fossil fuels are responsible for increased global warming.

(Actually, Koch Industries have over the past 15 years spent even more than ExxonMobil to support climate denial. But it is sufficient here to focus on the granddaddy of the climate denialist organizations.)

It is fitting to name a cyclone (hurricane) after ExxonMobil, because the global warming caused by fossil-fuel emissions is behind the increased intensity of hurricanes.

To explain: Hurricanes can form only after the ocean’s surface temperature reaches 80°F, and the warmer the surface, the more powerful the hurricanes will be. It is no accident that, as global warming has been increasing, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has been increasing.

It is also no accident that the ocean was exceptionally warm at the time of the most destructive hurricanes – such as Katrina in 2005, Sandy in 2012, Haiyan in 2013 (which killed over 5,000 people and displaced over 4 million), and now Cyclone Pam.

Also, if the ocean’s temperature continues to rise, the hurricanes will get increasingly worse. Indeed the suggestion that scientists should add a new category, Category 6, was evoked by both Haiyan and Pam.

Moreover, if the planet continues to get warmer, it won’t be long until scientists will be considering whether to add Category 7.

Why are we putting up with this? Why are we allowing ExxonMobil, which is already obscenely rich, to continue destroying our climate and threaten the continuation of civilization, just so that it can get richer yet?

We have traditionally taken genocide as the worst of all crimes. However, says Tom Engelhardt, there is something even worse, “terracide,” which is “the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on.”

Those who commit this crime, he suggests, should be called “terrarists.” Addressing fossil-fuel corporations, such as ExxonMobil, Engelhardt said:

“To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime?”

The criminality of ExxonMobil has contributed to Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Haiyan, and Pam.

But the increase in the destructiveness of hurricanes is only one small part of the destructive effects to which the criminal behavior of ExxonMobil has contributed.

These effects include the drought in the American Southwest; the melting in many countries of glaciers, which will, if it continues, leave billions of people without fresh water; and the melting of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which will raise the sea-level so much that millions, and eventually billions, of people will be forced to move.

All of this so that ExxonMobil and its partners in crime – especially the other four corporations constituting Big Oil: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell – can keep getting richer.

It is great that the movement to divest from fossil-fuel companies, led first by 350.org, and now the Guardian, is picking up steam.

But although this is a necessary first step, we don’t deal with terrorist organizations by simply divesting from them. Today we expect our governments to protect us from terrorists. Why do they not do something more directly about the terrarist organizations?

We expect our governments to protect us from ordinary crimes. We should insist that they protect us and our descendants from the ultimate crime.

It is not written in any culture’s Good Book, I believe, that a few tiny groups of people have a divine right to get obscenely rich by any and all means – even means that will destroy the conditions for the continuation of civilization.

In my book Unprecedented, the subtitle is a question: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? My answer is: “Maybe.” If we are to have a chance, we will need an unprecedented mobilization.

David Ray Griffin is emeritus professor of philosophy of religion at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University and author of “Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?” (Clarity Press, 2015).

6 Responses

  1. Frank Luntz invented the word “climate change” and tried it in some of his research test-bed focus groups. It played well, so he rolled it out. Someone should do a forensic literature search to see when the Koch/Exxon accusation that climate scientists came up with “climate change” when the warmup “stopped”. If the first verifiable date for that accusation first seeing light in the media can be fixed in time and documented, and it turns out to be later than the date on which Frank Lunts introduced the word “climate change”, then the Merchants of Carbon can be caught in a proven lie.

    Anyone who uses the word “climate change” has been “Luntzed”. ( Is “Luntzed” a word? If it isn’t, maybe it should be). We should come up with some counter-Luntz reverse-spin language, like global heating or global burning, or The Global Warmocaust, or Climate d’Chaos Decay. The Big Heat. etc. And use such words in everyday conversation to see if any take hold. Fly little memes fly.

  2. Dear David, thank you for this exceptionally realistic climate change conclusion. Far too few people have the integrity to say that humanity cannot adapt (we will have to try) successfully to already committed global climate change. Today’s atmospheric GHGs alone commit us to a warming of 2C. As you say the response is obvious and simple. Stop all GHG polluting fossil fuel subsidies, and charge large central polluters the cost of their pollution (by rapidly escalating carbon ‘tax’). To not even now be doing this is the worst crime and greatest evil ever. My sincere regards Peter Carter BC Canada

  3. Re. Luntz and climate change:

    Can we please start saying “climate disruption” now?

    That’s “D-I-S-R-U-P-T-I-O-N.” Not change. Disruption.

    Is there any possible reason to keep using the Luntz term? Starting right now. Any objections?

  4. Some further thoughts . . . Confucius once said that something very important to do from time to time was Rectification of the Language. In our own day that would include pressure-washing the Luntzwords off the language and purging the Luntz-meanings from the words we want to keep.

    “No Rectification without de-Luntzification”.

    People who use Luntz-type words which were not specifically invented by Luntz can be called Luntzy Louses.
    And people who use words or meanings that Luntz specifically invented can be called Lousy Luntzes.

    And I have decided to attach the prefix “Man Made” in front of every climate-related word or phrase that i use. For example, if one were to say ” Man MADE climate change”, one is half-way spoiling the Luntz effect right there. And I’ll probably start calling myself a Warmist, too.

  5. No one else a little miffed to see DRG turn up in the climate debate after spreading so much misinformation on 9/11? (He used to be a scion in the 9/11 Truth movement) – thanks but I’ll take my climate arguments and science from more trusted sources.

    Even a stopped clock might apply here…

  6. It it helps things any, I read some of the material presented here as fact-based material years before I had heard of DRG.
    And I read it in places other than here. I suspect DRG read it in those same places.

    I read long ago that 80F was the threshhold temperature for ocean water warm enough to gas off hurricane-loads of water vapor into the overlying air. If a hurricane gets started over a huge zone of 80F or higher ocean, it can somewhat “govern” its maximum growth by its own winds wave-churning ocean water deep enough to reach down and mix under-80 water with the 80 water at the surface. Drag the surface below 80 and less-than-hurricane loads of vapor can gas off into the air.

    If one deepens the layer of 80+ water on the surface, it stands to reason that one could set higher the bar at which
    the hurricane can finally wind-whip the ocean deep enough to drag up the now-deeper-down under 80 water. IFF! . . all other conditions were as perfect as before for the formation of a hurricane otherwise. I don’t see why that becomes false or unreasonable just because it is repeated by someone who is accused of being discredited on some other issue-area.

    As to the hysteria of “saving the planet”, the planet will save itself, thank you very much. If saving itself involves exterminating species man, the planet will do that without batting a hurricane’s eye. The planet got along fine before it met us, and it will get along fine once we’re gone. The planet could give a rat’s ass whether mankind lives or dies.

    We should worry about preserving conditions which are beneficial to the lifestyle to which we humans have become accustomed. THAT is what man made climate change is putting at risk right now.

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