I was teaching in a California two-year college when I read a student essay on global warming. It distressed him, said the writer, that most people dismissed the problem. “We are like frogs in a pot that’s put on simmer. Because the heat happens gradually, the frogs don’t do anything. If the frogs were dumped into already-hot water, they’d all try to jump out.” The year was 1994, three years before the Kyoto Accord would attempt to reach agreement among nations on how to control greenhouse-gas emissions, a protocol the US would refuse to sign.

Soon I raised the issue of greenhouse gases with my ex-husband, with whom I then lived. He had refused to sell our house, which would have allowed me to set up my own living quarters. Our children, grown to adulthood, had long fled the nest. “Global warming? That’s a lot of bull,” said Darold.  Today, in the eighth year of his death, I look back on those times, those conversations. Darold, a stout Republican, remained so until the bitter end, in spite of having lived in California for decades. An engineer in his early days who later retrained to become a successful attorney, he loved Limbaugh-type radio- and telecasts. And the Rush Limbaughs of the time had ample “evidence” for decrying the existence of greenhouse gases. Self-styled “scientists” and “analysts” were readily at hand to bring forth opinions that no evidence existed for climate change.

What neither Darold nor I understood: an entire movement was under way to confuse the public—as well as our politicians. The movement was financed by a fossil-fuel industry that desired nothing so much as to continue with business as usual, meaning continued outrageously-high profits. The industry resisted (and continues to resist) strict emission standards, just as the tobacco industry once resisted any attempt to force disclosure of the health hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine. In fact, many of the writers, PR professionals, and spin doctors who once lobbied on behalf of tobacco took up the new cause when the tobacco industry was found guilty as charged and their jobs fell by the wayside.

As you read the disclosures of James Hoggan, cofounder of DeSmogBlog.com, who together with Richard Littlemore researched and penned Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, you are aghast. Then horror turns into rage. The sums of money the fossil-fuel industry has lavished on this cause are staggering—and all this to protect profits? Yet the companies were earning untold billions already. Why are the earnings never big enough, never impressive enough? And why waste billions on a campaign that sooner or later is bound to turn futile? Why not use the money to help alleviate the problem instead?

It's the question I ask myself when I peruse Mike Magner’s Poisoned Legacy, which discloses the greed of corporate giant BP that demanded relentless cost-cutting strategies, strategies responsible for the loss of life or limb of workers, the irreversible contamination of vast stretches of ocean, aquifers, and rivers, and the ozone-laden air suffered by residents today in the once-pristine states of Colorado and Wyoming. “BP will not be quitting America,” contended Robert Dudley, newly installed CEO after the Deepwater Horizon disaster last year that took the lives of eleven workers—this, a mere handful of years since the company’s refinery explosion in Texas killed fifteen. The poisoned legacy is not in the past; it’s with us every day.