Earth Doctor / Climate Troubadour

Exxon Knew All Along

Your neighbors are making a scene,                       G/  C/
And your papers won’t say what it means.             G/  D/
While civilization careens,                                       G/  C/
It’s carbon pollution that’s killing your dreams,      C D C D
And Exxon —  knew all along.                                  G Em Am D G/ D/

Now the rivers rain down from on high,                  G/  C/
But on earth how our rivers run dry.                       G/  D/
As The storms of our children arrive,                     G/  C/
Creation is burning alive,                                         G C D/
Turning forest to cinders right under our eyes,      C D C D
Exxon knew all along.                                               G Em Am D G/ D/

Back in seventy-seven they learned                        G/  C/
All the trouble with fossils we burn.                         G/  D/
Are they going to level or lie?                                   G/  C/
Is the money more dear than the sky?                     G C D/
A crime against humanity, open your eyes!             C/ D/
I’m asking you, how can it be otherwise?                 Em/ D/
Exxon can stop it if they only try.                              C D C D
Exxon knew all along.                                               G Em Am D G/ D/

Premeditation means planning a crime,              (same as verse 3)
All the details, ahead of the time,
A Coalition for Climate Denying,
Beating drums for a new party line.
How calmly they calculate how to progress,
How to poison the public and perjure the press.
1989 they are turning to crime.
Exxon knew all along.

How wicked a web do they weave,
Bending genius and power to deceive.
Into classrooms their tentacles reach,
Through Congress and think  tanks they preach.
Just like tobacco, decades ago,
Killing people, pretending that they didn’t know,
Sealing our fate with a phony debate.
Exxon knew all along.

Oh Free Market, let not it seem rude,
But your prices had better include
All the cities to yet wash away
Between 2015 and your Reckoning Day;
All the farms that will fail and the mouths without food
Are only a part of the cost of your crude,
And part of the penance that Exxon will pay,
For Exxon knew all along. They knew all along.

Words and music ©Doug Hendren and Nancy Beall 2015

What’s it about? A recent investigation by InsideClimate News reveals that Exxon has been well aware of the climate consequences of fossil fuel combustion since 1977. Exxon scientists were actually in the forefront of climate science at that time. After James Hansen brought climate change to world attention in 1988, however, Exxon chose a dark path: Rather than risk the profitability of their business model, they invested millions in the years that followed to misinform the public, undermining the progress and credibility of climate science. Acting through political lobbyists, think tanks, and trade organizations such as the Global Climate Coalition and American Legislative Exchange Council (see below), Exxon and other oil, gas and coal interests have conspired to obstruct public awareness of climate change, blocking national and international efforts to do something about it. Exxon’s efforts over the years got the US climate denial ball rolling, cultivating among US public and politicians a deep ignorance of climate issues and suspicion toward the science in general. This heavily funded climate denial campaign has been an exact copy of the strategy of the big tobacco companies in the ’60s and ’70s, even employing some of the same people and organizations. Their deception has been exposed in the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes & Conway), and the 2015 film Merchants of Doubt. The strategy of confusion kept the tobacco industry out of court for many years, but we have run out of time with climate change. Had Exxon been forthright about their early scientific climate work, and put their enormous wealth and influence to work in promoting truth rather than stonewalling it, we would very likely live in a different and a safer world today. Instead, Exxon has played the leading role in allowing climate change to escalate unchecked. The consequences, including loss of lives, property, unprecedented droughts and flooding, breakdown of agricultural production and resource wars, are only beginning to appear. Climate change is now well underway. It is too late to stop it, although there is plenty we can do to mitigate it — if Exxon and their cronies get out of the way. Lying to protect profits at the expense of public health and safety is illegal at best. In Exxon’s case, the unprecedented scale of consequences of their  misbehavior merits vigorous investigation, including possible classification as a crime against humanity. Although these events may come as a surprise for the American public, make no mistake: Exxon knew all along.


The Oil Companies not only knew fossil fuels caused climate change, they knew how bad it would get.

Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980’s climate change warnings. New documents coming to light in 2018.

Exxon: Science vs. Misinformation. Here is a simple side-by-side comparison between what Exxon scientists told the company and what Exxon officials have told us over the years.

Fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion to kill US climate action, new study finds. Joe Romm, Think Progress, 7-19-18

How Exxon Used the NY Times to Make You Question Climate Change. Harvard study, Aug. 2017

The issue in a nutshell, terrific graphics:  InsideClimate News Wins SPJ Award for #ExxonKnew Infographics. Inside Climate News:  Exxon: The Road Not Taken; Exxon sowed doubt about climate science for decades. Union of Concerned Scientists: The Climate Deception Dossiers (2015) New York Times Exxon Mobil Accused of Misleading Public on Climate Change Risks September 2015: Earth’s warmest month in recorded history, says NOAA. Includes a table of multibillion-dollar weather disasters during 2015. Desmog Blog: Ignorance for a price: How the fossil fuel industry pays politicians to doubt science. National Geographic:  Climate Change helped spark Syrian war.. New York Times, Op-Ed Fossil Fools PBS Video: Has Exxon misled the public about climate change?

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