ExxonMobil Gave Millions to Climate Skeptics, Report Says

ExxonMobil has intentionally clouded the public’s understanding of climate change, according to a new report.

Between 1998 and 2005, oil giant ExxonMobil gave nearly $16 million to organizations seeking to create confusion over global warming science, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report says the company has adopted tactics similar to those used by tobacco companies to convince the public that smoking is not dangerous. By providing relatively modest funding to as many as 43 advocacy groups, ExxonMobil was able to make the body of climate change skeptics appear larger than it really was, UCS says.

According to the report, ExxonMobil, while ostensibly funding a quest for “sound science,” was in reality promoting the interests of its business. “To serve its corporate interests, ExxonMobil has built a vast echo chamber of seemingly independent groups with the express purpose of spreading disinformation about global warming,” said Seth Shulman, the investigative journalist who wrote the report. In addition to raising doubts over even “the most indisputable scientific evidence,” Shulman notes, ExxonMobil played a role in recommending key personnel in the Bush administration and funding climate change deniers in the U.S. Congress.

The company continues to downplay accusations about its attempts to cloud climate science. ExxonMobil spokeswoman Elaine Wauchope told Xinhua News Agency that the UCS report is “yet another attempt to smear our name and confuse the discussion of the serious issue of CO2 emissions and global climate change.” Yet some experts speculate that media pressure and public opinion are beginning to influence a change in the oil company. In its official response to UCS, ExxonMobil notes that “what is clear today is that greenhouse gas emissions are one of the factors that contribute to climate change, and that the use of fossil fuels is a major source of these emissions.”

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.