Earth Doctor / Climate Troubadour

Exxon Knew

Your neighbors are making a scene,                     G  C              (CAPO 2nd fret)
And your papers won’t say what it means.          G  D
While civilization careens,                                      G   C
Is carbon pollution disturbing your dreams?    Em D C D–
Well, Exxon knew all along, They knew all along. G Em Am D    G CG D

Now rivers rain down from on high,
But on earth, how the rivers run dry.
It’s the future already arrived
And it’s burning Creation right under your eyes,
And Exxon knew all along, They knew all along.

Back in seventy-seven they learned
All the trouble with fossils we burn.  
Are they going to level or lie?
Is all of that money worth more than the sky?
Oh, Exxon knew all along, They knew all along.

Premeditation means planning a crime,
All the details, ahead of the time,
How to profit from all of the mess,
To poison the public, and perjure the press.
Oh, Exxon knew all along, They knew all along.

How wicked a web do they weave,
All that genius and power to deceive.
Into classrooms their tentacles reach,
On Capitol Hill and in think – tanks they preach.
And Exxon knew all along, They knew all along.

Now, I really don’t want to be crude                Bm  C
But the cost of your oil includes                       G  C  D
The heat and the fires we watch in dismay    C  C#dim G G7
The  people and villages washing away,          C  C#dim  D D7
The farms that will fail, the mouths without food  Em D G C–
So much of Creation you’ve already screwed      C  C#dim D  D7
Extinctions and refugees drowning in tears,      Em C  G G7
The way that you lied to us all of these years!     Em C D D7
And Exxon knew all along, they knew all along, they knew all along!

© Doug Hendren 2015 and 2021

What’s it about?  Exxon has been accurately predicting and publicly denying climate change for more than 40 years. Here is the timeline of Exxon’s deception, and the profits they made from it. While Exxon’s malevolent behavior has been widely reported, new information continues to come to light.

I originally published this song in 2015, after Inside Climate News reported on how much Exxon’s management knew in the 1970s about how their products were destabilizing life on earth. Rather than act on this knowledge, Exxon chose to follow the playbook of the tobacco industry. Exxon led the fossil-fuel industry in an epic disinformation campaign spanning decades, to deceive the public and obstruct climate legislation. Numerous sources (notably Oreskes and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt (2010 book, and subsequent Sony Classics film), have thoroughly chronicled their deception.

What has happened since then? Remarkably little. While Exxon has belatedly paid lip service to the reality of climate change, has publicly supported a tax on carbon, they continue to fund disinformation, and to retard meaningful action to combat climate change. As a result of Exxon’s decades of political and economic resistance to climate action, a manageable challenge to world science and industry is now an emergency. The summer of 2021 has opened a “Pandora’s box of catastrophes,” leading scientists to speculate that we may have entered a new, very dangerous stage of climate change. Economists are attempting to estimate economic damages attributable to climate change in the US.  Western wildfire season, once just 5 months long, is now a year-round risk, extending now east of the Rockies and north, deep into Canada.  As I have written before (see “Baby Maria“), much of the US immigration crisis from Latin America is actually a climate crisis.

In 2021, an Exxon lobbyist was caught on video boasting about Exxon’s various strategies to obstruct US climate legislation, frankly admitting to Exxon’s corrupt dealings with members of US Congress, notably describing Senator Joe Manchin (R-WV) as their “kingmaker,” being in a unique position to stall the Biden administration’s efforts to enact decisive legislation to combat climate change. Exxon’s anti-climate campaign begun in the 1970s is still going strong.

As of 2023, ongoing examination of what Exxon really knew have further confirmed that going back as far as the 1970s, Exxon had the best climate scientists in the world, and stunningly accurate climate projections. And even while they pursued this science, they publicly denied its accuracy at the same time.

This is a crime story. Thanks to their deception, we are now in a true, global emergency. What we have seen so far is only the beginning. And as we are now starting to learn, the economic costs of delay are astonishingly high. It will get much harder.  We know enough to act. Now.

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