ExxonMobil's War on Science

In a quarter-page advertorial in Thursday's New York Times, ExxonMobil launched a new greenwashing campaign to salvage its earned reputation as Earth's number one global warming villain.

For over a decade the giant oil company has waged a successful multi-million dollar propaganda campaign to deceive the public about global warming. Using phony think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, scientists-for-hire called biostitutes, slick public relations firms, and their indentured servants in the political process, they have intentionally defrauded the public by promoting the notion that global warming is a hoax or a sketchy theory that requires more study.

The company now asserts that its position on global warming has been "misunderstood," but its decade of mischief is well documented.

Exxon has dished out at least $19 million dollars since the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) to fund an elaborate network including over 75 industry front groups mobilized in a misleading campaign to cloud the public's understanding of global warming. Their objective has been to counter balance the overwhelming scientific evidence of man-induced climate change with pseudo scientific denials to derail reforms that might effect corporate profits.

In 2005, ExxonMobil paid over $3.5 million to 49 different front groups, according to the company's own records, which are collected each year by ExxonSecrets.org and the ExxposeExxon coalition. A report released earlier this month by the Union of Concerned Scientists traces the roots of this fraudulent propaganda broadside -- and many of its prime actors -- back to the tobacco industry's tactical war on science.

Exxon has also used vast political contributions to guide the Bush administration's posturing on climate change. ExxonMobil successfully arranged the ousting of the world's top climate scientist Robert Watson as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

An Exxon memo to President Bush's top staffers obtained by NRDC through the Freedom of Information Act asks bluntly, "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?" The White House's carbon cronies obligingly complied, arranging for Watson's dismissal. He was replaced by a little known scientist from New Delhi who would not be regularly available for Congressional hearings.

A 2002 Exxon memo recently obtained by Greenpeace through FOIA coaches one of the President's top environmental advisers Philip Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality on how to "improve" administration research on climate change by emphasizing "significant uncertainties" in the science.

The New York Times later revealed that Cooney, a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute which is generously funded by Exxon, made myriad changes to government climate studies designed to weaken their strong conclusions about the need to act on global warming.

Typically Cooney would insert the words "significant and fundamental" before "uncertainties" in the reports. Cooney, a non scientist, helped suppress or alter several major taxpayer funded scientific studies on global warming including a decade-long study commissioned by this President's father. Cooney resigned two days after the Times broke the story. But don't feel badly. Within a week ExxonMobil announced it had hired him.

Exxon has responded to roars of recent outrage over its anti-social antics by announcing that it has stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute which has collected over $2 million from the oil giant since 1998 to weave lies about climate change -- and 4-5 other groups that Exxon refused to name.

Exxon's new contrition is hardly sincere. The company still continues to fund 40 other groups in its unrelenting campaign of deception. Two weeks ago, the ExxposeExxon coalition -- composed of America's most respected environmental groups, including NRDC, the Sierra Club and U.S. PIRG -- asked Exxon to disclose the names of all the other groups the company funded this year and the nature of the work they are doing for ExxonMobil. Exxon did not respond to the request.

As further evidence of the company's insincerity, Exxon's chief executive and CEO Rex Tillerson, on Friday told world leaders in Davos that oil companies should not be held responsible for global warming. The blame, he argued, rests instead with the very consumers and government officials his company has spent millions of dollars manipulating and defrauding.

America is a decade late in addressing the serious threat from global warming largely due to ExxonMobil's campaign of deliberate deception. ExxonMobil's conduct amounts to a war on civilization. The company can't simply sweep this legacy of fraud and villainy under the rug with a paid op-ed campaign in the New York Times, or with oily statements shifting the blame to consumers. The company needs to cease its campaign of deception completely if it is to genuinely atone for its crimes against humanity.

ExxonMobil might also apply some of its record profits -- estimated at $37 billion last year -- toward meaningful solutions to global warming as other U.S. companies have done.

For starters ExxonMobil might consider joining a coalition of ten major companies -- including industry giants like DuPont, Dow and Alcoa -- and leading environmental groups which last week launched the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, calling for firm limits on carbon dioxide emissions to aggressively combat climate change.


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