Sins of Emissions

Will the Democratic National Convention’s 2016 platform call for a federal investigation of ExxonMobil’s reported efforts to deceive the American public about the risks of human-caused climate change?

Climate hawks have yet to finish celebrating the news that 350.org founder Bill McKibben–a tireless titan in the fight to reduce carbon pollution–was among the progressive voices selected by Bernie Sanders to serve on the committee that will craft the DNC platform. With McKibben–a staunch advocate of holding ExxonMobil accountable for its climate chicanery–on board, the odds are pretty good that the final version of the platform will back a Justice Department investigation into one of the greatest political and media scandals in US history.

Ten years after the release of Al Gore’s trailblazing documentary, we face another inconvenient truth–namely, that ExxonMobil is a fugitive from climate justice, and should be held fully accountable for what acclaimed climate scientist James Hansen has called “a crime against humanity.” Assault on our atmosphere. Robbery of a livable future for our children and grandchildren. Fraud in trying to convince the American public that the risks of climate change were somehow too uncertain to justify federal efforts to cut carbon pollution.

The selection of McKibben for the DNC platform committee could, in effect, commence the manhunt for this fugitive. There is an argument that, considering the radical nature of the Trumpublican Party on climate, the only way to avoid the worst consequences of carbon pollution is to convert the Democratic Party into a political entity that is as aggressively in favor of climate action as the Republican Party is opposed. Holding accountable those who caused the climate crisis in the first place is of the utmost moral and legal importance–which is why, if the DNC platform officially calls for a federal investigation, ExxonMobil will find itself in a most uncomfortable spotlight.

ExxonMobil may plead not gulity to charges of obstructing climate justice, but it’s hard to see a majority of Americans buying the company’s claims. Attorneys General are calling for accountability (despite right-wing efforts to intimidate them). Sanders and Hilary Clinton are calling for accountability. If the Democratic National Committee calls for accountability as well, such a declaration will continue building the momentum necessary for the carbon conglomerate to finally face judgment.

Sanders deserves tremendous praise for selecting McKibben (the architect of the successful effort to stop the Keystone XL pipeline) as a platform committee member. The loathsome lackeys of the fossil-fuel industry have decided to target McKibben because of the threat he poses to their ill-gotten gains, but they cannot break his will. His involvement with the DNC platform committee is already a big win for the climate movement–and it will be an even bigger win if the final version of the platform calls for a federal investigation into ExxonMobil’s extremism.

UPDATE: More from Peter Dykstra, PRI, the Guardian, the Albany Times-Union, Peter Sinclair and ClimateFiles.com.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.