House Science investigations chairman calls on Exxon to account for global warming denial funding


On May 17 the Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology sent a letter to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson calling for a full accounting of ExxonMobil’s financial support of the global warming denial and disinformation political campaign. Denialist operatives and their allies will no doubt launch their usual bogus complaint that raising this issue this is somehow an effort to suppress honest scientific discussion and analysis. The opposite is the case, as AAAS President-elect Prof. James McCarthy’s March 28 testimony before the subcommittee clarified.

See our May 20 post on this subject (“Greenpeace report on Exxon’s continued funding of global warming denial and disinformation machine”).
Press release on Rep. Miller’s letter to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson
Miller letter to Tillerson

A May 2007 report by Greenpeace USA concludes that, in 2006, Exxon spent $2.1 million on 41 groups that are part of the climate change denial and disinformation campaign. The report says Exxon has now given $22 million to these groups since 1998.

“I encourage you to make all of your information about philanthropic giving, either by the Corporation or its Foundation, public at your earliest opportunity,” wrote Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), Chair of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Committee on Science and Technology in a letter to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. “The support of climate skeptics, many of whom have no real grounding in climate science, appears to be an effort to distort public discussion about global warming….It is indefensible for ExxonMobil, a company that leads the world’s corporations in profits, to tarnish its economic success by trying to promote phony science about climate change.”

Miller chaired a Subcommittee hearing on March 28, 2007, on “Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy.” One of the witnesses at the hearing, Dr. James J. McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University, Co-Chair of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, President-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Board Member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, gave testimony that should help counter the inevitable disingenuous complaints from the global warming disinformation campaign and its allies in the media and on the Hill that this criticism of ExxonMobil is somehow an attempt to censor opposing viewpoints or suppress meaningful scientific discourse.  This testimony is highly worth reading. Prof. McCarthy began by saying:

It is now clear that for a number of years, both Bush administration political appointees and a network of organizations funded by the world’s largest private energy company, ExxonMobil, have sought to distort, manipulate, and suppress climate science, so as to confuse the American public about the reality and urgency of the global warming problem, and thus forestall a strong policy response.

Unfortunately, these efforts have misled many individuals, including elected officials, to believe that the human influences on climate change are either negligible or of little consequence.  The science, however, leaves no doubt that human induced climate change is of enormous potential consequence, and clearly one of the most urgent issues of our times.  It is also increasingly clear that we only have a narrow window of time—a decade or less—within which to initiate serious action if we are to avoid the highly negative impacts of global warming that are otherwise projected for this century.

Dr. McCarthy summarized the findings of a report from the Union of Concerned scientists, Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science, a well-written review and analysis that, along with Dr. McCarthy’s testimony, describes a pattern of activity that ExxonMobil and Exxon’s apologists really should be called to account on.

That March 28 subcommittee hearing also heard testimony from Tarek Maasarani, representing the Government Accountability Project. Maasarani presented the findings of his report, Redacting the Science of Climate Change: An Investigative and Synthesis Report, a definitive, detailed documentation of Bush administration political interference with federal climate science communication.  This report is an essential source for any serious study of this subject. 

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) sent a similar letter to Exxon last fall.  See our October 31, 2006 post (“Senators Snowe and Rockefeller to ExxonMobil: Stop funding denialists”).

Also, the Wall Street Journal published our letter criticizing their editorial on this subject. See our December 21, 2006 post (“It’s time for Exxon Mobil to stop warring against the leading climate scientists”).

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