Soros-backed re­port link­ing Valdez spill to cli­mate change ‘ridicu­lous’

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

A re­port blam­ing the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in part on global warm­ing has gen­er­ated more ridicule than alarm, re­new­ing scru­tiny over the role of lib­eral foun­da­tions in keep­ing the fad­ing #ExxonKnew so­cial me­dia cam­paign alive.

The ar­ti­cle, “The role a melt­ing glacier played in Exxon’s big­gest dis­as­ter,” earned a few hat tips from the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment af­ter ap­pear­ing Thurs­day in the Los An­ge­les Times, but the taunt­ing from cli­mate-catas­tro­phe chal­lengers has been mer­ci­less.

“Blind­ingly stupid,” “cli­mate change fan fic­tion,” “ir­rel­e­vant” and “ridicu­lous” were among the in­sults hurled at the re­port, writ­ten by stu­dents from the Columbia Univer­sity Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism’s En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­port­ing Project.

“Any­one who has ever fol­lowed the story knows that the only ice re­spon­si­ble for the Exxon Valdez spill would be the ice cool­ing the cap­tain’s many cock­tails that night,” said Katie Brown of En­ergy in Depth, which is funded by the In­de­pen­dent Petroleum As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. “But for an­tiExxon cam­paign­ers, no al­ter­nate the­o­ries (or should we say al­ter­na­tive facts?) are too out­ra­geous to pub­lish.”

Not lost on crit­ics were the project’s fun­ders: left-of-cen­ter phi­lan­thropies, in­clud­ing those backed by the Rock­e­feller fam­ily and bil­lion­aire George Soros, that have made no se­cret of their sup­port for cli­mate ad­vo­cacy and an­tipa­thy to­ward the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try.

A dis­clo­sure at the end of the ar­ti­cle said that the foun­da­tions “have no in­volve­ment in or in­flu­ence over the ar­ti­cles pro­duced by project fel­lows in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Los An­ge­les Times,” but not every­one was buy­ing it.

“The Los An­ge­les Times is re­ally ramp­ing up the fake news fac­tor with this Rock­e­feller- and Soros-funded ‘ar­ti­cle’ seek­ing to blame global warm­ing for the 1989 Exxon Valdez,” said Marc Mo­rano, pub­lisher of the skep­tics’ web­site Cli­mate De­pot.

The story sug­gested that Exxon should have known that the Columbia Glacier had be­come un­sta­ble as a re­sult of global warm­ing, in­creas­ing the risk of ice­berg haz­ards, be­fore the Exxon Valdez crashed into Alaska’s Bligh Reef af­ter swerv­ing to avoid an ice­berg.

“What was trig­ger­ing the glacier to drop ice­bergs at such a fe­ro­cious and ul­ti­mately dis­as­trous pace was un­clear at the time,” said the ar­ti­cle. “But some sci­en­tists, even then, were be­gin­ning to look at cli­mate change’s role.”

The Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, a leader of the #ExxonKnew cam­paign, retweeted the ar­ti­cle, calling the Exxon Valdez dis­as­ter an “early prod­uct of @ExxonMo­bil’s well-doc­u­mented legacy ac­tively ped­dling #cli­mate de­nial.”

How was Exxon to “know”? The ar­ti­cle said sci­en­tists with the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey raised the pos­si­bil­ity in 1975 and 1978 of cli­mate-driven ice­berg haz­ards.

Then again, there was hardly a con­sen­sus: En­ergy in Depth re­ported that USGS stud­ies re­leased in 1977 and 1980 said the be­hav­ior of ice­berg-calv­ing glaciers “is ap­par­ently not di­rectly re­lated to cli­matic vari­a­tions.”

Roy W. Spencer, me­te­o­rol­o­gist and prin­ci­pal re­search sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Alabama in Huntsville, was also du­bi­ous, calling it “quite a stretch to blame the dis­as­ter on hu­man-caused global warm­ing.”

“Glaciers nat­u­rally flow to the ocean and calve. As long as it snows on them, grav­ity makes them flow to the ocean — no global warm­ing re­quired,” Mr. Spencer said in an email. “Even if calv­ing in­creased in the 1980s, the warm­ing in Alaska that abruptly started around 1980 was due to a shift in a nat­u­ral cli­mate cy­cle called the Pa­cific Decadal Os­cil­la­tion (PDO), not the re­sult of a slow warm­ing trend due to hu­mans.”

By the ar­ti­cle’s logic, “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!” quipped con­ser­va­tive colum­nist David Harsanyi of The Fed­er­al­ist.

Hil­lary Man­ning, Los An­ge­les Times com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, had no com­ment on the crit­i­cism but noted the news­pa­per had been trans­par­ent on the project’s fun­ders, which in­clude the Rock­e­feller Fam­ily Fund, the Rock­e­feller Broth­ers Fund and Mr. Soros’s Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions.

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