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 anti-Exxon 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.
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.