A facade erected by climate-change deniers and science skeptics continues to crack and crumble under the weight of mounting evidence that erodes decades of deceptive claims to the contrary. 

This evidence includes wildfire infernos and scorched landscapes, exceptional droughts and extreme flooding, melting ice caps and rising sea levels experienced during recent weeks at multiple locations around the globe. The first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent report provides science-based explanations for these phenomena. 

Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis serves as "a reality check," IPCC Working Group I Co-chair Valerie Masson-Delmotte said this week upon the report's release. The report brings into focus "a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”

The report further exposes the masquerade carried out during the past seven decades by fossil-fuel industry insiders and the politicians they bankroll. Humble Oil, a company known today as ExxonMobil, published a paper in 1957 that reveals an early understanding among the company's scientists of the link between the use of fossil fuels and rising levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is fueling climate change. 

The Center for International Environmental Law mined another report produced in 1968 for the American Petroleum Institute that warned about rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and its environmental impact. A significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the scientists wrote, could melt icecaps, contributing to rising sea levels and changing fisheries and increasing photosynthesis of plants. 

An Exxon scientist working in its Products Research Division penned yet another report in 1978 that warned about the impact of human-caused emissions on global temperatures. The scientist suggested in that report, made public a few years ago by InsideClimate News, the "need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical" within five to 10 years due to a changing climate. 

The oil and gas giant abandoned its efforts to understand and address climate change after a manager overseeing Exxon's environmental affairs program distributed a primer about climate change. The internal document, according to InsideClimate News, described the potential for "catastrophic events" if there was no reduction in the use of fossil fuels. 

Rather than invest in new technology, the industry began sinking money into a coordinated effort to undermine the issue and sow doubts about climate science. This charade, directed by some of the same people who promoted false claims about the impact of tobacco use on human health, intensified. 

Like magicians, the industry relied on sleights of hand, wires and contraptions, and misdirection to construct an illusion for the purpose of fooling consumers. This deception spilled into politics for the purpose of wielding more power and promoting public policies that benefit the industry at taxpayers' expense. 

Rather than taking aim at solutions, this industry is doubling down, attempting to secure its future through an expansion of petrochemical companies and plastics, making it more difficult to reverse the impact of climate change. The IPCC report notes some of the trends can be reversed, it "will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions."

That goal is more imperative now than ever. 

D.E. Smoot covers city/county government for the Phoenix. 

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