talk about it, they get depressed. So we followed a strategy for
twenty years that involved lying to the public, not talking about
climate change, not telling people what the problem is.
We—US environmentalism—made a decision not to put
out the truth and also not to contest for the hearts and minds
of people on this matter, especially in the center of the country.
Even though deniers were going out with horrendous stories, we
did not go out and try to fight that. We thought we could lie about
the problem, negotiate with the fossil fuel companies, and come
up with a technocratic policy solution around the margins. It was
a complete fantasy.
Kathleen: Has the recent election changed this?
Ken: From the climate perspective, there may be a sort of
silver lining in the election, in that it clarifies a lot of things—
including the fact that the fossil fuel industry e=ectively runs US
energy policy. Now we’ve got Rex Tillerson as secretary of state,
but ExxonMobil has e=ectively been in charge for decades.
Kathleen: The second condition for the necessity defense is a
tough one. Can any of us honestly say that we have not created
global warming ourselves, by our choices as consumers?
I personally think this charge is completely bogus—if I
can insert myself here. I think it may be one of the biggest tri-
umphs of Big Oil, to make consumers blame themselves for
climate change because we are the ones who are burning the
fossil fuels— even while the corporations are spending billions
to make sure that we have no alternatives.
They build and maintain infrastructures that force consumers to use fossil fuels. They convince politicians to kill or lethally
underfund alternative energy or transportation initiatives. They
increase demand for energy-intensive products through advertising. They create confusion about the harmful e=ects of burning
fossil fuels. They influence elections to defang regulatory agencies that would limit Big Oil’s power to impose risks and costs on
others. They do everything they can to be sure that people have
no choice but to participate in the oil economy. And then they
blame people for burning the fuels.
Michael: That said, we still have to take some bold and courageous actions to reduce our emissions. Our kids will not survive
Annette: But even if all of us who were involved in this fight
foreswore fossil fuels and went to live in a cave, it would not
change the system and the planet would fry anyway. So I find
the argument to be very much a red herring, a false sort of
Kathleen: Let’s look at the third condition for a necessity
defense. Can you say that the harm is imminent, that is, about
One of the members of your support team said that “it’s
From left to right: emily,
annette, Leonard, Ken,