'Big Oil' Faces 'the Same Game Plan that Brought Down Big Tobacco'

     Nearly 10 years after the tobacco industry was sued, the same lawyer has brought suit against the energy industry for “conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change.”


     “As scientific evidence accumulates on the destructive impact of carbon-dioxide emissions, a handful of lawyers are beginning to bring suits against the major contributors to climate change,” Stephan Faris wrote in the June 2008 Atlantic Monthly.


     According to the article, a lawsuit was filed in February that named several companies it claimed were responsible for global warming and accused them of plotting to cover it up.


     “More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking – by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus,” wrote Faris.


     Faris didn’t include a response from any of the companies named in the suit or from the industry associations that exist to respond in such cases.


     Two of the lawyers who filed the suit, Steve Susman and Steve Berman, were both involved in the 1998 $200-billion settlement with Philip Morris, the biggest civil settlement ever, according to the article. Back then Susman represented Philip Morris and Berman represent 13 states wanting to recoup their medical costs.


     At issue is the Eskimo village of Kivalina, on the west coast of Alaska, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says is threatened by coastal erosion caused by global warming.


     According to one University of California professor quoted by Faris, the alleged cover-up is similar to what she said the tobacco industry did to downplay the dangers of smoking.


    “The research and public-awareness efforts funded by Big Oil involve some of the same scientists and other professionals who once worked on behalf of Big Tobacco,” said Faris. “For instance, Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, who died in March, served as a research adviser for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and then founded the George C. Marshall Institute, an ExxonMobil-funded think tank that has challenged the connection between greenhouse gases and global warming.”


     But the science isn’t as settled as Faris would have his readers believe. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine just unveiled a petition of 31,072 scientists, including 9,000 with Ph.Ds, which demonstrated “the claim of ‘settled science’ and an overwhelming ‘consensus’ in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climate damage is wrong.”



Related Links: 


A Special Report from BMI: Global Warming Censored


BMI's Special Report "Fire & Ice: Journalists have warned of climate change for 100 years, but can't decide weather we face an ice or warming"


Climate of Bias: BMI's page devoted entirely to global warming and climate change in the media.