Critique of Dembicki’s The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change

Contributed by William Walter Kay BA JD © 2023

A climate-journo for 15 years, Geoff Dembicki’s main haunts have been Tyee and Vice. His, Are We Screwed?, won the 2018 Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. Petroleum Papers was published by David Suzuki Institute/Greystone Books – the political and publishing arms of Canada’s biggest green NGO, the David Suzuki Foundation. The book cites the usual Big Green suspects: Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the 1,900-NGO Bonn-based, Climate Action Network. It relies even more on post-millennial climate sleuth NGOs and webzines like: Center for Climate Integrity, Climate Investigations Center, Climate Reality Project, Inside Climate News, DeSmog, Environmental Integrity Project, Koch Docs and Grist.

A Filipino Greta

Chapters interspersed throughout Petroleum Papers chronicle the indoctrination of Joanna Sustento, a 20-something Filipino who lost 5 family members to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Before Haiyan, Sustento lived a conventional, privileged life. Fluent in English, she had a good job and owned an online business. Her dad, a military officer, despised activists. Her writings about Haiyan earned an invite to a climate conference, which led to a documentary deal. After the doc’s screening, Greenpeace came calling.

Greenpeace explained to Sustento the concept of climate justice, the idea that global temperature rise is not just an abstract scientific phenomenon but a human tragedy that was landing hardest on communities that had done little to cause the emergency… Sustento became obsessed with learning more about Climate Justice. “I didn’t do anything but read about it.” (1)

Greenpeace told Sustento that Big Oil, instead of using its secret climate insights to move beyond petroleum and save lives, “spent decades spreading lies about the science and sabotaging solutions.”

“It blew Sustento’s mind to imagine executives signing off on such a strategy. She saw it as so immoral that she “cannot believe there are really people who exist” capable of executing it. As she learned more, bewilderment turned to fury. “I remember being angry every day.” (2)

In 2017, Sustento now a Greenpeace employee, boarded a dingy with actress Lucy Lawless to protest an offshore oil-rig. (3) Sustento’s “Greta” moment came during the 2019 Climate Strike when she stood alone with a homemade “Climate Justice” sign in front of Shell’s Philippine HQ. After being detained, she returned to Shell’s offices bearing a photo of her deceased 3-year-old nephew. (4)

On behalf of Haiyan survivors Greenpeace initiated an application to the Philippine Human Rights Commission. On opening day of the Commission’s hearing Sustento delivered a tearjerker at a survivors’ rally, concluding:

Climate change is one of the biggest injustices in human history.” (5)

During a 2021 Zoom call:

I (Dembicki) picked up the conversation: If the oil and gas producers hadn’t spent decades spreading doubt and denial about climate change, I asked, is it possible that the storm that killed her family never would have happened?” “Well yeah” she replied…” (6)

Dembicki bestows upon Sustento his book’s finale:

“It is because of their climate denial, the seed of lies that they planted in our society, that we are the ones who are suffering.” (7)

Congrats! …another Unabomber is cloned.

The ‘59 Teller

In 1959 Columbia U and the American Petroleum Institute (API) hosted 300 guests at a daylong “Energy and Man” symposium. (8)

In his address Sun Oil exec and API director, Brian Dunlop, commented cryptically:

There are aspects of the future which are clouded by the penetration of noneconomic forces into the functioning of an industry which has always performed best in an atmosphere of economic freedom.” (9)

Dembicki adds:

Dunlop didn’t say what storm clouds specifically threatened the expansion of oil and gas. But the next speaker did.” (10)

That speaker, nuclear scientist Edward Teller, imparted an amped-up rendition of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming hypotheses, to wit: “a 10 percent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York.” (11)

According to Dembicki, oil execs “now knew” of the climate danger. Dembicki references Teller’s 1959 speech repeatedly. Moreover, the lead case for an armada of vexatious climate lawsuits against oil companies, the Boulder suit, emphasised Teller’s speech:

The timeline of corporate denial on climate that it (the Boulder suit) sketched out began in the late 1950s. That was when Sun Oil executive Robert Dunlop attended the Columbia University symposium where Edward Teller warned of a ‘greenhouse effect’…” (12)

Two points about Teller:

• In the 1950s, he advocated exploding hydrogen bombs to blast canals through the Rocky Mountains, and similar over-the-top projects that only a nuclear shill, unconcerned with air pollution, could dream up. (13)

• Regarding climate science, Teller recanted! His signature is the marquis for the famous, sceptical Global Warming Petition Project.

Dembicki knows this latter point. By concealing it, he deceives.

The ‘88 Hansen

Apostle Bill McKibben explains “they knew” to disciple Dembicki:

Imagine, McKibben said, that just hours after Hansen gave his congressional testimony in 1988 waking up the American public to the dangers of global warming, the CEO of Exxon went on CBS Evening News and said, “Our scientists are telling us pretty much the same thing. We’ve got a real problem and we’ve got to get to work.” McKibben said, “If that happens, then we avoid this thirty-year, completely pointless debate whether global warming is real.” (14)

Dembicki shares McKibben’s view that:

NASA scientist James Hansen brought the emergency to the public’s attention in 1988.” (15)

Hansen began moiling “the burgeoning field of climate science” in the 1970s. “He was among the first scientists to predict that if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate, the world could heat up by a civilization-destabilizing 2.5 degrees Celsius….”

June 23, 1988:

• “There were two rows of television cameras pointing directly at him (Hansen), and every available seat in room 366 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building was taken.”

• “Hansen had earlier told colleagues that ‘I’m going to make a pretty strong statement’.”

• “…colleagues at NASA wondered if it was responsible for Hansen to tell the public that global warming was already happening.” (17)

Dembicki’s account of Hansen’s testimony draws heavily on Nathaniel Rich’s Losing Earth. According to Rich, hours before testifying Hansen attended a NASA briefing whereat his mentor and boss, Ichtiaque Rasool, unveiled NASA’s CO2 research program.

Regarding evidence of an anthropogenic global warming signal amidst disparate temperature data, Rasool stressed: “no respectable scientist would say that you already have a signal.” (18) Dembicki deletes this!

NASA science proved irrelevant anyway because:

Hansen had the support of senators including Timothy Wirth, a Democrat from Colorado, who on the day of the hearing told reporters they should prepare for a major news event.” (19)

Hansen testified that he had “99 percent confidence” CO2 emissions already palpably altered our climate. In the press scrum he reached further:

It is time stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.” (20)

On June 24 the New York Times ran the alarmist: “Global Warming Has Begun Expert Tells Senate.” Moreover:

Dozens of major newspapers and TV programs carried similar coverage.” (21)

Dembicki maintains willful blindness regarding orchestration, which is obvious given that 4 days after Hansen’s testimony, scientists and policymakers from dozens of countries gathered in Toronto for: “The Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security.” Attendees’ closing statement reads:

Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.” (22)

Within months, Congress was munching on two dozen climate bills. Wirth’s bill sought fuel use cuts of 2% per annum for 15 years. (23)

Global Climate Coalition

Formed in 1989, the Global Climate Coalition’s (GCC) membership included GM, Ford, US Chamber of Commerce, API and major oil companies.

GCC set up a website, facilitated meetings with senators, and got academics like Patrick Michaels quoted in the press. GCC didn’t deny the “greenhouse effect” nor the potential warming impact of CO2; rather, they argued that observed temperature increases fell within the range of natural variability; and that no credible evidence proved this warming was human-caused. (24) GCC contended: “claims of an impending catastrophe rest on little more than speculation.” (25) GCC activity peaked around the Kyoto summit (1997) when they ran full-page ads warning of fuel price increases. (26)

Dembicki alleges GCC single-handedly lowered the percentage of Americans worried about climate change from 65% in 1989 to 50% in 1997; and, reduced the percentage of Americans believing global warming was dangerous from 88% in 1992 to 42% in 1997. (27)

1997 is the operative year because in May 1997, BP Chair Sir John Browne spoke thusly at Stanford:

The time to consider the policy dimensions of climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which we are part…
There is now an effective consensus among the world’s leading scientists and serious and well-informed people outside the scientific community that there is a discernable human influence of the climate…
.” (28) (Emphasis added)

BP promptly withdrew from GCC. Ford followed in 1999, then: “in early 2000, the trickle of defections became a roar, with one corporate member after another rushing to publicly repudiate the once powerful group.” (29)

Texaco, Shell et al joined BP in the alarmist camp. The holdout, Exxon, caved after CEO Tillerson gave a 2007 speech averring: “the risks to society and ecosystems from climate change could prove to be significant.” (30)

GCC’s flash-in-the-pan existence didn’t prevent a 2008 climate lawsuit on behalf of sea-level spooked Alaskan natives from accusing GCC of masterminding a “civil conspiracy to mislead the public about the science of global warming.” The suit went down in flames before district and appellant courts. (31)

Several US municipalities launched similar litigation circa 2017-2018 targeting: “the American Petroleum Institute, which during the 1980s and 1990s ran and directed the Global Climate Coalition that spent millions of dollars on advertising claiming that fears over global warming were overblown….” (32) Said litigation failed abysmally.

News Corp

In 2006, Rupert Murdoch confessed:

Until recently, I was somewhat wary of the warming debate…(but) the planet deserves the benefit of the doubt.” (33)

He then summoned News Corps managers to a 5-star Pebble Beech hotel because:

Murdoch wanted the media company to start taking climate change seriously… going green was “a sound business strategy” Murdoch argued.” (34)

In 2007 Murdoch aimed to make News Corp carbon neutral by 2010. (35) He harboured grander plans:

Our audience’s carbon footprint is ten thousand times bigger than ours. That’s the carbon footprint we want to conquer.” (36)

Murdoch wished to “revolutionize” climate reporting; i.e., “make the issue ‘dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun. We want to inspire people to change their behaviour.’” (37)

While Murdoch pitched climatism to Hannity and O’Reilly, Fox News’ Roger Ailes did a PSA opining:

Global warming is a crime for which we are all guilty.” (38)

After 3 years of untold internal struggle Fox righted itself. Thus, in 2010 a Fox News VP could decree:

…we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as the debate intensifies.” (39)

Murdoch himself flipped. In 2014 he commented:

Climate change has been going on as long as the planet has been here, and there will always be a little bit of it. At the moment the North Pole is melting but the South Pole is getting bigger.

Soon after, he tweeted an aerial photo of the Arctic captioned:

…flying over N Atlantic 300 miles of ice, Global warming!” (40)


Want to put alarmists on the spot? Press them for the date when catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) became a fact within the scientific establishment. Dembicki’s sources (the June 24, 1988 New York Times article, Rich’s Losing Earth et al) make clear that circa Hansen’s 1988 testimony CAGW was NOT an accepted scientific fact.

Would it not have been the height of irresponsibility for oil execs to liquidate their enterprises to accommodate an hypothesis which, at the time, was heretical within the scientific community?

CAGW became a “fact” as in “the-boss-says-its-a-fact-so-its-a-fact-Jack” in the 1990s. Clinton declared CAGW “for real” mid-1997. (41) Major oil firms soon toed the line.

Modern multinational oil corporations join alarmist orgs like World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. Corporate websites promote CAGW and showcase investments in renewables. Climatism’s coal-to-gas transition benefits them enormously. The myth of Big Oil running a gargantuan climate sceptical propaganda machine is absurd, yet its widely believed – courtesy lies spread by the likes of Dembicki.


  1. Dembicki, Geoff. The Petroleum Papers – Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change; Greystone Books Ltd, David Suzuki Institute, Vancouver BC, 2022; pages 173-4.
  2. Ibid p 174
  3. Ibid p 207
  4. Ibid p 206
  5. Ibid p 209
  6. Ibid p 239
  7. Ibid p 242
  8. Ibid p 14
  9. Ibid p 16
  10. Ibid p 16
  11. Ibid p 18
  12. Ibid p 219
  13. Ibid p 35
  14. Ibid p 240-1
  15. Ibid p 5
  16. Ibid p 67
  17. Ibid p 66-7
  18. Rich, Nathaniel. Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change; New York Times Magazine, August 1, 2018. See also Friends of Science: Sununu Heard the Jackboots Marching.
  19. Dembicki p 67
  20. Ibid p 67
  21. Ibid p 68-9
  22. Ibid p 68
  23. Ibid p 69
  24. Ibid p 92-3
  25. Ibid p 121-2
  26. Ibid p 95-6
  27. Ibid pages 96 and 220
  28. Ibid pages 105 and 122
  29. Ibid p 105
  30. Ibid p 139
  31. Ibid p 163
  32. Ibid p 220
  33. Ibid p 140
  34. Ibid p 137
  35. Ibid p 138
  36. Ibid p 138
  37. Ibid p 138
  38. Ibid p 140
  39. Ibid p 156-7
  40. Ibid p 157
  41. Ibid p 90


Tony Heller on Historic Extreme Weather Events vs Typhoon Haiyan

The Roots of Global Warming

Undue Influence – Markets Skewed

National Observer and DeSmogBlog Attempt to Rewrite History in Attack on Exxon

Merchants of Consensus: A Public Battle Against Exxon


  1. Fran Manns

    There is no denying the madness of crowds.

    Charles Mackay (1814-1889) – “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

  2. William Kay

    Thanks for commenting Fran. I see no evidence of madness. I see a very sophisticated, well-funded and patient long-term strategy of propaganda and recruitment aimed at implementing the coal and oil phase-outs. They’re lying for sure, hence what they are saying doesn’t corresponding to reality. This basic divorcement from the real world, however, is purely rhetorical.

  3. Jacob P.

    Hey William! I really appreciate your dedication and research. Your articles are refreshing to read and the journalism you model is sadly rare to find these days.
    In my own opinion, the environmentalist ideology has much in common with religious ideologies; villains, sins, heroes, commandments, and a moral code, not to mention the thirst for power by it’s ‘leaders’. As well, there is the frustrating aspect of trying to reason with those who have been indoctrinated. I find myself today in the strange position of being all of a religious atheist, political atheist, and now a science atheist, ironically.
    All the best, from your friend from the old meetup.

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