Archive for the ‘Express 213’ Category

Exxon says “over-the-top activists fail to acknowledge that climate change is a complicated subject”

Posted by Ken on October 26, 2015
Posted under Express 213

Exxon says “over-the-top activists fail to acknowledge that climate change is a complicated subject”

Recent disclosures show that oil giant Exxon paid millions to hide the truth about climate change and confuse the public. Just as Big Tobacco was banned from smoking policy regulation, so Big Oil too should be banned from influencing policy on climate change. That was the clear and unequivocal statement from experienced environmental journalist in her fortnightly OnePlanet opinion piece on 14 October in the Straits Times. It attracted a rather predictable response from ExxonMobil Asia-Pacific, suggesting that the company has never done anything wrong and is committed to finding climate/energy solutions. But also making this point: “What we have understood from the outset – and something which over-the-top activists fail to acknowledge – is that climate change is a complicated subject.” Read More


No place for Big Oil in climate change policy debate

Jessica Cheam in Straits Times

14 October 2015

Recent disclosures show that oil giant Exxon paid millions to hide the truth about climate change and confuse the public. Just as Big Tobacco was banned from smoking policy regulation, so Big Oil too should be banned from influencing policy on climate change.

News broke last week that as early as 1977, senior scientists from United States oil giant Exxon had warned that the burning of fossil fuels was influencing the climate.

Pulitzer Prize-winning website InsideClimate News published the first in a series of stories revealing what some US media has dubbed “Exxon’s climate concealment”.

In the wake of this revelation, there are now growing calls for Big Oil to be excluded from any global or national policymaking on climate change altogether.

Co-founder of non-profit Bill McKibben, in a separate commentary this week, draws parallels with the tobacco industry. In 1996, lawsuits forced tobacco firms to release internal documents which showed they knew as early as the 1950s that cigarettes caused cancer.

The industry had then deliberately misled the public to protect its interests, which delayed regulation. This disclosure – and the eventual exclusion of Big Tobacco from any policymaking – finally led to overdue government regulation on smoking and transformed the global public health landscape.

Exxon and other Big Oil firms launched a campaign to suppress and confuse the science and to lobby governments not to curb fossil fuel use. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The expose on Exxon should trigger the same for climate change.

Documents collected and interviews conducted with retired employees and officials show that the company, now ExxonMobil, knew about the possible effects of fossil fuels on global warming decades ago.

Then, facts began to emerge on the impact of accumulated greenhouse gases on warming cycles. The scientific community became more vocal about the potential threat of human-driven climate change.

Exxon – along with other Big Oil companies – responded by embarking on a multimillion-dollar campaign, which started in the 1990s and apparently still continues today – to suppress and confuse the science and to lobby governments not to take action to curb fossil fuel usage.

This has added an interesting lens to the great climate change debate. For decades, this debate revolved around whether it was scientific fact or fanciful conjecture that human action leading to higher carbon emissions was responsible for warming the climate. The world is only now beginning to realise the leading role Big Oil has played in creating this “debate”, which an overwhelming majority of scientists say by now is based on fact, not conjecture.

These Big Oil-backed institutions cast doubt on climate change to the point that there has been no meaningful progress since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 by the international community to implement global policies to tackle the issue.

Twenty international meetings have been held since then. This December in Paris, world leaders will once again gather for the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21, to attempt to ink a global agreement on climate change. There should be no place for Big Oil at such a meeting.

In the years since the debate was first sparked, the evidence has got stronger, with 97 per cent of climate scientists agreeing that man-made carbon emissions are causing climate patterns to change adversely.

According to US space agency Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which samples temperatures across the globe, 2014 was the hottest year on record since 1880 – the earliest year for global records – and 2015 is on course to break that. Fourteen of the warmest years on record have happened this century, and nine of the 10 warmest years have been since 2000.

Across the globe, climate change is already happening – contrary to naysayers who paint it as a figment of imagination, or an uncertain problem in the distant future.

While some countries do benefit from increased temperatures, many more suffer as a result of negative disruptions to their agricultural, health and environment ecosystems.

Land ice at both poles and in glaciers around the world are melting at an accelerated rate, contributing to sea level rise, and there have been more hurricanes, droughts and floods, which scientists have linked to climate change factors, driving millions from their homes, such as in low-lying Bangladesh.

Climate change effects, if unchecked, will continue to undermine global political stability. The current war in Syria -and the unfolding European migrant crisis – has been linked by new credible studies to climate-induced prolonged drought.

Climate change deniers counter that, in fact, humans cause a negligible amount of carbon emissions compared with natural ecological cycles, and that climate change is an excuse for governments to impose taxation and regulation on companies, and an excuse for international bodies to put obstacles that hinder developing countries’ growth by hampering their carbon emissions.

Underlying the attacks, the message is always the same: “There’s nothing wrong with business as usual. Let’s continue to plunder and pollute without consequence.”

How should we respond to this debate? I would argue that as responsible global citizens, we have a moral duty to study the arguments and draw conclusions supported by scientific evidence – and not be swayed by junk science or persuasive half-truths.

Encouragingly, surveys around the world show that climate change awareness is rising. In Singapore, a survey by the National Climate Change Secretariat in 2013 showed that 70 per cent of 1,000 residents were concerned about climate change – a majority, even though this same number fell slightly from 74 per cent in a similar 2011 survey.

A recent Pew Research Centre survey – conducted in 40 countries with about 45,000 respondents – released in July measuring perceptions of international challenges showed that many countries named climate change as a top threat, especially in Latin America and Africa.

Public understanding and pressure are vital to press political leaders to negotiate a successful outcome in Paris.

In this “sceptics versus advocates” battle to win the hearts and minds of the global public, the latter group has one ultimate trump card.

Regardless of whether human actions cause global warming, the fact is that a world powered by more renewable energy, which puts a price on environmental and social costs of environmental damage, is simply a superior one.

Our collective aspiration for a greener, cleaner, more sustainable planet that safeguards humanity’s future is a powerful force for change.

The truth is, our planet will survive. It has done so for millions of years despite experiencing cataclysmic climate changes in its history.

The bigger question is whether we can say the same for humanity.

•The writer is the editor of Eco-Business, an Asia-Pacific sustainable business online publication. This is a fortnightly column on the environment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline ‘No place for Big Oil in climate change policy debate’.

Climate change a complex issue, solutions not easy

Straits Times Forum Page (23 October 2015):

Ms Jessica Cheam’s commentary on Oct 14 (“No place for Big Oil in climate change policy debate”) cited certain critics of ExxonMobil claiming that evidence of our climate research was unearthed recently after being suppressed as part of a conspiracy to deny the existence of climate change.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

ExxonMobil is a science- and engineering-based company, and we employ roughly 16,000 scientists and engineers who, every day, explore the boundaries of scientific knowledge in order to develop the energy supplies that power the modern economy.

As our company has noted publicly, our scientists and researchers were among the first to grapple with the fact that there might be a connection between the carbon dioxide emissions from humanity’s use of fossil fuels and climate fluctuations.

We have remained committed to pursuing climate change research since that initial discovery. And we have worked closely alongside other top scientists on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception in 1988 – a collaboration that continues to this day.

ExxonMobil scientists have also contributed climate research and related policy analysis to more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed publications from 1983 to the present. These are all publicly available and always have been.

This research dovetails with actions we have taken over the years to investigate the possibilities of next-generation energy technologies.

Globally, we are also addressing the risks of climate change with solutions, by helping to supply cleaner-burning natural gas, developing emissions-reducing technologies and encouraging energy efficiency.

One example of that is the significant investment in more than 100 co-generation plants all around the world, including Singapore where we have two co-generation plants and are building a third.

What we have understood from the outset – and something which over-the-top activists fail to acknowledge – is that climate change is a complicated subject.

The climate and mankind’s connection to it are among the most complex topics scientists have ever studied, with a large number of variables to consider over a long time span.

Any responsible dive into the topic must take into account the monumental scale of the world’s energy challenges.

Climate change is not given to a single, simple conclusion, nor to a single, simple policy solution.

Because of the large scale of the world’s need for energy, solutions are not easy – they will take time, investment in research and development, and thoughtful public policies.

Michele Ng (Ms)

Singapore Public and Government Affairs Manager

ExxonMobil Asia-Pacific


Last word: Creating a Vision for the Future.

Posted by Ken on October 26, 2015
Posted under Express 213

Last word:

Creating a Vision for the Future.

You heard about this here first! John O’Brien tells me his landmark book “Visions 2100”, with contributions from 80 authors around the world – 33 from Australia, 16 from Asia, 16 from  Europe and 15 from the Americas – will be launched first in Brisbane, Australia on 12 November, followed by Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

Among the leading global contributors are Mary Robinson, Special Envoy on Climate Change, United Nations and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Yes, yours truly was invited to make a contribution in the book, too.  So you can look forward to the Ken Hickson vision for a New World Order for 2100. A glimpse of a few of the visions – including mine – can be found on Facebook:

So there is a lot more to discover. Besides the essays/articles from the global 80, John is also inviting everyone to contribute their vision online. What would you like – or expect – to see when we arrive at the year 2100?

Find out more here and as the website is now up and running, go directly to: There will also be plenty of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn activity. And the book can be ordered online now.  Read More


Visions 2100

‘The future is a beautiful, if challenging, partner. Your choice is whether you take the risk in having a first date or whether you are happy to accept a life of regret.’

The book tells the power of Visions and invites the reader to participate in the VISIONS 2100 Project by creating and sharing their own vision of life in 2100. The aim is to get widespread engagement and interest in comparing and telling visions of a better future and to drive ‘water-cooler’ discussions globally.

The context of the book is around the challenges presented by climate change and environmental issues, but concept is wider and is about how to change community, and then government, perceptions of how to approach long term global problems. Human psychology is not designed to cope with long-dated problems. We are very good at solving immediate crises but often fail to act on gradual, complex challenges – such as climate change – until catastrophe looms. For environmental problems, the standard approach is to try and get people to worry about the looming disaster but that fails to engage the majority of the population. The telling of visions enables people to engage with and be excited by what is possible – by the opportunities that change can provide.

The book balances worries about catastrophe with social and environmental improvements by referencing psychology, management thought, case studies and personal anecdotes. In also references the parallels between the world’s journey and coping with the chronic illness of the author’s wife.

“Having a vision of a better world is likely to result in the world being better.”

The book is framed around eighty short visions by some of the world’s leading environmental thinkers and influencers including those leading the process of making global agreements on climate change. The visions are all written from viewpoint of the year 2100 looking back over the last century. They consider what life is like in 2100, the uncertain journey to get there, the fears and hopes for human activities and the benefits of their envisioned worlds. This picture of the future provides an important marker to head towards as we navigate the changes to our society that will occur during the coming century.

The narrative weaves the contributions together and provides a coherent picture of how the century will unfold and where we will end up. It ends with a call to action to get readers involved in creating their own future through writing and sharing their own visions for a better world.

About the author

John O’Brien is the founder of Australian CleanTech and Sino CleanTech, research and advisory firms that assist cleantech industry growth across Australia and Asia.John delivers programs on innovation systems, entrepreneurship and authentic leadership.  He publishes both the Australian Cleantech Index and the annual Australian Cleantech Review.

John also lectures in Leadership and Entrepreneurship at the University of Adelaide and is a member of the South Australian Premier’s Climate Change Council. He is on the board of cleantech companies involved in wind farm development, biosensors and plastics recycling in China. Previous roles include being on the Board of Renewables SA and as a member of Innovation Australia’s Clean Technology Innovation Program Committee.

He has engineering degrees from Oxford and Trinity College Dublin and an MBA from Adelaide. John lives in Adelaide, Australia with his wife, Kate, and two tall teenage sons.