Stop big business wrecking the environment

While April may have been the wettest April in the UK for 250 years and March was the warmest March ever recorded in the US, top corporations are funding climate change denial. Pete Mason reports.

Overturning records dating back to 1767 is no mean feat. Oxford University’s Radcliffe Meteorological Station holds the longest rainfall dataset in the UK, and its records suggest that April broke not only the entire 100 years or so of national records, but may have been the wettest for almost 250 years.

Global temperatures are increasing rapidly as records fall like rain. March 2012 was the warmest March ever recorded in the US since record keeping began in 1895, with over 15,000 daily warm temperature records broken.

Across the country the question will be repeated: Why are we not doing anything about this real-life disaster movie? In the US, whose industrial capitalist class are the chief villains of the plot, a clue surfaced in a recent billboard campaign by the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank.

Featuring Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber and Charles Manson, a mass murderer, with further planned billboards to feature Osama bin Laden, the slogan announced: "I still believe in global warming. Do you?"

Kaczynski in fact made no reference to global warming and Manson is not known for any views on climate change, yet defending perhaps the most extreme public expression of climate change denial seen in the US, the Heartland Institute states: "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society.

"This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen". (http://climateconference.heartland.org/our-billboards/)

None of this is true, of course. So who is behind the Heartlands Institute (which has now pulled its billboard campaign)? In its exposé, the Climate Progress website lists AT&T and General Motors, Microsoft and many other public corporations which have donated money or provided resources to Heartland, "including Eli Lilly & Co, GlaxoSmithKline, Nucor, Pfizer, and Time Warner Cable" (6 May 2012).

These are huge corporations which have governments dangling by a thousand strings. The five biggest oil companies totalled $33 billion in profits in the first three months of this year, and the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) received on average a 55% pay increase in 2010-2011.

The BP CEO received a 300% increase. Exxon paid 13% effective federal tax rate in 2011, ConocoPhillips paid 18% and Chevron paid 19% - still less than you or me.

The doting US Congress voted down a bill which would have blocked $24 billion in tax breaks to Big Oil over the coming decade (Climate Progress, 2 May 2012).

As the global climate situation deteriorates, it injures the fortunes of capitalists themselves, and infighting begins.

Billionaire energy investor T. Boone Pickens publicly attacked the Kock Industries, secretive funders of climate change denial, calling them the biggest deterrent to an energy plan in America: "They have the cheapest natural gas price they’ve ever had, and they’re in the fertilizer business and they’re in the chemical business.

"So their margins are huge. ... if you had an [energy] plan, then natural gas prices would come up" (Climate Progress, 3 May 2012).

In other words, big business, and particularly Big Oil, is behind climate change denial, preventing legislative change from compliant governments, and is the reason "we" have not removed carbon-based fuels from our economy.

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