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Global Warming Deniers and ExxonMobil

WHY the confusion? | WHAT is a denier? | WHO are they? | HOW do we counter them?

WHY the confusion on global warming? For more than a decade, the best science has been telling us that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate with even more alarming consequences.

Extreme droughts and floods and longer-lasting and more frequent tropical storms are on the horizon. The consensus among scientists has been that the prime cause of warming is the emissions of heat-trapping gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels. So why has global warming been largely covered in the U.S. as a debate? For years, a network of organizations have worked together to block action on global warming. In the words of the U.K.'s Royal Society, one of the most prestigious scientific academies in the world, these groups "misrepresent the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence." This network has been consistently funded by ExxonMobil. Since at least 1998, ExxonMobil has spent $17 to $23 million to bankroll these groups. Today, ExxonMobil is the only known oil giant directly bankrolling global warming denier groups. The funding is part of its continued involvement in an orchestrated plan to manufacture uncertainty around climate science. The plan, made public by The New York Times in 1998 (see clip at right), and retold recently by the Union of Concerned Scientists, employed the same strategy and some of the same personnel as the tobacco industry. The memo laid out a plan to "identify, recruit and train" a small team of unknown scientists and declared that: "Victory will be achieved when uncertainties in climate science become part of the conventional wisdom" for "average citizens" and "the media." Until now, the plan was successful. (Read more)

WHAT is a denier? Global Warming Denier [di-nahy-er] An individual or organization that denies and distorts the science and urgency of global warming as assessed by the world's foremost authority on global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the U.N. body that was set up in 1988 to comprehensively assess all the published climatic research. The IPCC has issued four comprehensive assessments since 1990. In 2007, after six years of work completed by 2,500 scientific expert reviewers from 130 countries, the IPCC concluded with 90 percent certainty that emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have caused "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century." (Overview of 2007 IPCC assessments.)

WHO are the deniers? The network of global warming deniers includes corporate lobbyists, front groups and free market anti-government organizations that try to affect public opinion and policy on global warming. They work together to form an echo chamber of views that appear to be coming from a large, unrelated constituency. In reality, they sit on each other's boards, publish each other's writings, form coalitions, use the same scientists, lobby Congress, and spread identical arguments. They often opine on additional environmental issues including, repealing the Endangered Species Act, opening up the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling, promoting liquid coal, and bringing back the toxic pesticide DDT.

Organization or Front Group

Exxon Funding 1998-2006from Exxon

Sample Denier Quotes

American Enterprise Institute

$1,860,000

Offered $10k to scientists to write a paper on the UN IPCC "...that thoughtfully explores the limitations of climate model [forecasting] outputs as they pertain to the development of climate policy..." Project was apparently canceled. (Letter, 2/5/07) "If you look closely at the IPCC's full reports, they are hedged repeatedly in uncertainties and limitations about what we know." Hayward, (FrontPage, AEI, 5/21/07)

American Legislative Exchange Council

$1,126,200

"The science of climate change is unsettled" and the "question is how much, if any, of this warming is caused by human activities."(ALEC Analysis, Fall 2006)

Cato Institute

$125,000

" Using normal scientific standards, there is no proof we are causing the Earth to warm, let alone that such warming will cause an environmental catastrophe." (publication, 7/11/07)

Citizens for a Sound Economy Educational Foundation [2004 in FreedomWorks]

$380,250

"Don't allow our corporations to be used as pawns for a radical agenda which is not based on science...Human impact on global warming is likely negligible at best!" (Stop the Extremists on Global Warming: An open letter to ExxonMobil Shareholders, 5/26/03)

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)

$567,000

"Despite the endless deluge of global warming claims there is also a mountain of climate data to dispute them." (website, 2/20/07)

Fraser Institute

$120,000 All for climate projects

"Climate change activists are exaggerating the certainty in the linkage between human action and climate change and advocating policies that offer no environmental gain, but a lot of economic pain." (Press Release, 7/21/03)

Free Enterprise Action Institute/ CSR Watch

$130,000

"...the junk science behind global warming hysteria,... subscribing to the unproven notion that humans are altering global climate for the worse..." (Top 10 Worst in 2004, 12/7/05)  

Frontiers of Freedom Institute

$1,182,000

" there is a wide spectrum of opinion on almost every aspect of the subject..."(Rebuttal to Al Gore's Congressional testimony, May 2007)  "Climate has always varied, often with large swings...These dramatic climatic ebbs and flows are naturally occurring events." (Science Hill Watch, 2/2/04)

George C. Marshall Institute

$745,000

"We have at least 25 years to research this issue before CO2 emission cuts need to be considered." (A guide to global warming, accessed 10/07)

Heartland Institute

$830,000

"The supposed scientific consensus on global warming is pure fiction." (Joseph Bast, president, 6/28/07 Press release) "... warming is likely to be very modest relative to natural variation," (2007 Guidebook for State Legislators)

Heritage Foundation

$565,000

" Virtually all of the alarming rhetoric surrounding global warming is speculative and lies outside the scientific consensus.... given that global warming is not unprecedented, is not catastrophic, we really need to think seriously about the costs of some of these efforts to deal with global warming...." (Cold Facts on Global Warming, accessed 8/07)

Media Research Center

$202,500

Dedicated to revealing liberal bias media."ABC, CBS, and NBC are giving overwhelmingly one-sided coverage to the global warming issue with numerous reports that largely mimic the talking points of former Vice President Al Gore and climate disaster alarmists..." (Press Release, 4/19/07)

National Center for Policy Analysis

$545,900

"Due to the complexities of the climate system, we currently cannot reliably connect emissions of greenhouse gases from any specific source or group of sources to an increased risk of any particular outcome..."(NCPA publication, 5/15/06)

National Center for Public Policy Research/ EnviroTruth

$335,000

"the science implicating human activity on global warming is uncertain and speculative"(testimony of Sr. Fellow Thomas J. Borelli, 6/29/07)  "There is no serious evidence that man-made global warming is taking place." (NCPPR website, 4/04)

Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy

$430,000

This example misinforms readers by confusing weather with climate: "Warming theorists warn that there is more to come, but as farmers know, the weather does not always cooperate with predictions." (Capital Ideas, 8/15/07)

The Advancement of Sound Science Center and Junkscience.com

$50,000

"Global warming alarmists, such as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),..."  Milloy replays hackneyed arguments that attempt to disprove the IPCC conclusions of the state of science.

HOW do we counter the deniers?
  1. Identify them: If you read an article that includes the view of someone denying the science or urgency of global warming supported by the IPCC, chances are they are linked to a scientist or organization funded by ExxonMobil. Use the resources below to identify deniers.
    • ExxonSecrets.org: The most comprehensive network of Exxon-funded groups that fight global warming science, policy or both. (Greenpeace USA) 
    • Sourcewatch.org: Tracks the propaganda activities of groups and individuals engaged in manipulating public perception, opinion and policy. (Center for Media and Democracy) 
    • Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air: List of Exxon-funded groups who either deny the science of global warming or have received climate-specific grants from Exxon since 1998. (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007)
    • Global warming deniers: Select list of Exxon-funded groups that openly deny the accepted climate science and the assessments of the IPCC. (Exxpose Exxon coalition, 2007)
    • DeSmogBlog.com: Comments on the activities and spin coming from Exxon-funded groups on global warming. (Ross Gelbspan, Jim Hoggan, and other prominent researchers) 
  2. Counter their arguments: The disinformation spread by global warming deniers or naysayers can sound convincing, especially when they show up everywhere on the blogosphere. They use hackneyed claims already dismissed or cherry pick a single study or event to try to cast doubt on the entirety. None of the groups or their associated individuals has any standing in established climate science nor do they publish their contrarian views in respected peer-reviewed scientific journals. The links below provide answers to some of the deniers' most common erroneous claims. 
    • 26 Climate Myths: A guide for the perplexed - (pdf) (New Scientist) 
    • Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth – Answers to 9 "errors" (Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann featured on RealClimate.org) 
    • How to talk to a Climate Skeptic (Grist: Environmental News and Commentary)
    • How do we know we're not wrong? Book chapter (Naomi Oreskes, Univ. of CA San Diego)
    • Highlights of the 2007 IPCC Assessments (Union of Concerned Scientists)
  3. Be a source of knowledge: History tends to repeat itself. Even as the battle to enact strong climate policy is won, it is critical that we document the role played by ExxonMobil and the denier organizations. Below are some key articles and reports to arm you with an adequate understanding of the historical battle for action on global warming.
    • Top 10 Investigative News Stories about global warming deniers.
    • The Exxon Double-Cross: Exxon-Funded Global Warming Deniers Get Renewed Funding in 2006 (Greenpeace USA, May 2007)
    • Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Change (Union of Concerned Scientists, January 2007) Report on how ExxonMobil adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action. 
    • ExxonMobil Exposed: More Drilling, More Global Warming, More Oil Dependence (Exxpose Exxon, July 2005) Report on the reasons the environmental community joined together to Exxpose Exxon.
    • Exxon's Weapons of Mass Deception  (Greenpeace International, October 2002) Report detailing ExxonMobil's efforts to distort public opinion and derail international negotiations on global warming.
    • Denial and Deception: A Chronicle of ExxonMobil's Corruption of the Debate on Global Warming  (Greenpeace USA, May 2002) Report detailing ExxonMobil's various efforts to derail action on global warming.
 
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