Climate Change Fan Fiction From LA Times: Global Warming Caused The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill

Climate Change Fan Fiction From LA Times: Global Warming Caused The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill

Sorry, you can’t rewrite history to suit your contemporary political needs.
David Harsanyi
By

Environmentalists have pinned every one of Earth’s calamities on the presence of climate change, from terrorism to prostitution to drug addiction. Running out of chilling subject matter, activists are now retroactively blaming famous disasters on global warming in a crusade to punish “dissenters.”

A few years back, the Energy and Environment Reporting Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism wrote a series of pieces in the Los Angeles Times claiming that oil giant Exxon had engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to conceal the link between fossil fuels and climate change.

The entire series was thin gruel, but read it for yourself. You may immediately recognize reporters who are working backwards from preconceived notions. Broadly speaking, the series is predicated on the idea that corporations have a responsibility to embrace the most far-fetched and apocalyptic conclusions about global warming — notoriously unpredictable even for those who buy worst-case scenarios — and then peddle those predictions as fact.

The series was an excuse for a number of attorneys general — most notably, anti-free-speech advocate Eric Schneiderman of New York — to retroactively punish with investigations companies that failed to adopt liberal political positions on global warming. It was also meant as a warning for the future. What’s most ludicrous about these efforts is that they rely on a mythology: if only Americans had been aware of this crazy phenomena called “global warming,” they would have immediately abandoned all the comforts of modern life.

In any event, the tactic has not worked, for many reasons, including impediments like the pesky First Amendment. So the Energy and Environment Reporting Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Los Angeles Times rolled up their sleeves and created another piece of activism to buttress the cause.

Most of us remember the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill, which was one of the costliest oil-spill disasters in history. The massive environmental destruction it inflicted on Alaska cost Exxon a total of $3.5 billion in cleanup and court costs it’s still paying off. It remains the second largest U.S. oil spill after Deepwater Horizon.

Well, The Los Angeles Times now claims the Valdez struck Bligh Reef because the Columbia Glacier had been shedding icebergs. So, in short, the Valdez crashed into a reef (not the ice) in Prince William’s Bay because Exxon had failed to warn people in 1989 about the dangers of global warming. This is so preposterous, the piece will probably win a Pulitzer.

First off, using this calculus, anyone can blame basically anything that happens to them on climate change. Did you avoid a puddle when you hit that telephone pole? Sue Exxon!

Somehow, since 1989, thousands of tankers have been able to ship oil from Alaska to California without hitting the reef, even though the bay is still “riddled with icebergs” that were allegedly caused by Exxon failing to take responsibility for global warming in 1980s.

You can read about the Valdez disaster all day long — the lawsuits and the stories and the investigations — and nowhere, as far as I can tell, will you ever run across the claim that the Valdez disaster had anything to do with Exxon denying climate change.

The Alaska Oil Spill Commission mentioned nothing about the icebergs in the bay being out of the ordinary. In its final report, the commission says “small icebergs from nearby Columbia Glacier occasionally enter the traffic lanes.” Nor did the government report blame ice. According to the National Transportation Board investigation, the crew was overworked and the radar system was not working correctly.

Who knows? Maybe the slight increase in temperature that day enticed the captain of Valdez to go binge drinking? Sue Exxon!

None of this is journalism — not even opinion journalism. It’s activism. It’s a concerted effort to rewrite history and create a new Big Tobacco.

Step one: Activists at the Rockefeller Family Fund help underwrite a partnership between the Energy and Environmental Reporting Project and the Los Angeles Times. According to The Wall Street Journal, part of the foundation’s broader agenda is “to establish in public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm.”

Step two: Working from this starting point, The Los Angeles Times delivers the goods. (Now, that’s not to say that a story can’t have merit because a journalist is funded by a think tank or activist group. It’s to say that writing a story claiming the Exxon-Valdez oil spill was caused by global warming is a transparent way to create ammunition for a political crusade.)

Step three: The corrupt New York state AG coordinates with the Rockefeller Family Fund and uses the stories they funded to launch his politically motivated thought-police investigations.

Oil corporations should, of course, be held responsible for the messes they create. I don’t believe any reasonable person would disagree. But until humans stop running things, there will always be calamities and accidents. So we can debate the importance of fighting climate change. You can continue to mock “deniers.” But you can’t rewrite history to suit your contemporary political needs.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.

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