New report from Union of Concerned Scientists documents ExxonMobil’s disinformation campaign


Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to “Manufacture Uncertainty” on Climate Change, a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists, details how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. The section of the report on “Buying Government Access” includes discussion of documentation we made available in 2005 and issues we have raised since then.

We congratulate investigative journalist Seth Shulman and UCS for pulling this material together in such readable form.  We hope this report leads to some good coverage in the media, which has seriously underreported the issues it raises.  We hope, too, that the report feeds some Congressional oversight on the relationship between the Bush administration and the corporate-funded global warming disinformation campaign.   

The UCS press release says:

According to the report, ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

“ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer,” said Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Director of Strategy & Policy. “A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as Big Tobacco did for over 40 years.”

The report can be accessed on the UCS Web site.

The section on “Buying Government Access,” pages 19-24, includes discussion of issues we raised in 2005 having to do with the direct involvement of a once-and-future oil industry operative in the governance of the federal Climate Change Science Program, as well as the attack on the National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts by the White House in collaboration with industry-funded interests. For some background on this:

June 2, 2005
“On Issues of Concern About the Governance and Direction of the Climate Change Science Program”
Rick Piltz memo to U.S. Climate Change Science Program agency principals.

June 8, 2005
“Bush Aide Edited Climate Reports: Ex-Oil Lobbyist Softened Greenhouse Gas Links,” New York Times, June 8, 2005, page 1.

June 11, 2005
Bush Administration Censor Resigns, Moves to ExxonMobil

More recently:

December 21, 2006
On December 13 the Wall Street Journal printed our letter critical of their December 4 editorial, “Global Warming Gag Order.” We said: “Your attack on Sens. Snowe and Rockefeller for their letter calling on ExxonMobil to stop supporting groups that obfuscate climate change science is misconceived on some essential points….The senators are not alone in believing it is time for ExxonMobil to stop warring against the leading climate scientists….”

November 17, 2006
“The Denial Machine” airs on CBC-TV
On November 15 the fifth estate, Canada’s leading investigative public affairs program, aired “The Denial Machine.” CBC says: “The documentary shows how fossil fuel corporations have kept the global warming debate alive long after most scientists believed that global warming was real and had potentially catastrophic consequences.” In an interview on the program, Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz says: “This is a political operation to deny the seriousness of the problem in order to control the direction of policy. So I call it ‘the denial machine’ because I think it’s a more accurate description of what’s going on in this town right now.”

October 23, 2006
Out of Balance: ExxonMobil’s Impact on Climate Change documentary released
This hour-long movie focuses primarily on ExxonMobil’s support of climate change “skeptics” and its influence on the Bush administration. It includes interviews with scientists including R.K. Pachauri (IPCC chair), Robert Watson (World Bank senior scientist), Michael Oppenheimer (Princeton); authors including Bill McKibben, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Ross Gelbspan; environmental advocates from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Exxpose Exxon, Greenpeace, and other organizations; and Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz.

For additional documentation and action:

Exxon Secrets
“Documenting Exxon-Mobil’s funding of climate change skeptics.”

Why ExxonMobil?
As the world’s largest private oil company, ExxonMobil has the power to direct the energy industry and policy makers toward a smarter, cleaner, and more secure energy future. The solutions to reducing our dependence on oil while strengthening our economy, creating jobs, and protecting the earth are available today. Instead, ExxonMobil is using its profits and power to take America backwards and keep us addicted to oil.

ExxonMobil is the only major oil company:

o Funding front groups that confuse the science on global warming and delay action;
o Refusing to invest in clean, renewable energy that doesn’t pollute our air and water and will bring down consumer costs of energy;
o Denying the urgency of global warming and lobbying against action;
o Still a member of Arctic Power, the single-issue lobby group trying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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