Two Faced: What #ExxonKnew vs What Exxon Did

November 25, 2015


Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian:

Investigative journalism by Inside Climate News (ICN) into Exxon’s internal documents revealed that the company was at the forefront of climate research, warning of the dangers posed by human-caused global warming from the late-1970s to the late-1980s. As Harvard climate historian Naomi Oreskes noted,

But Exxon was sending a different message, even though its own evidence contradicted its public claim that the science was highly uncertain and no one really knew whether the climate was changing or, if it was changing, what was causing it … Journalists and scientists have identified more than 30 different organizations funded by the company that have worked to undermine the scientific message and prevent policy action to control greenhouse gas emissions.

Exxon has responded to the ICN allegations by pointing out that over the past three decades, the company’s scientists have continued to publish peer-reviewed climate research.

Our scientists have contributed climate research and related policy analysis to more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed publications – all out in the open. They’ve participated in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception – in 1988 – and were involved in the National Academy of Sciences review of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment Report.

Finally, I’ll note that we have long – and publicly – supported a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most effective, transparent, and efficient way for governments to send a signal to consumers and the economy to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels.

While the ICN investigation focused on Exxon’s internal reports, Exxon’s spokesman pointed to the peer-reviewed scientific research published by the company’s scientists between 1983 and 2014 – 53 papers in all.


I reviewed all 53 of the papers referenced by Exxon’s spokesman, and they indeed consist of high-quality scientific research. Most of them implicitly or explicitly endorsed the expert consensus on human-caused global warming; none minimized or rejected it. This means that there is a 100% consensus on human-caused global warming among Exxon’s peer-reviewed climate science research – even higher than the 97% consensus in the rest of the peer-reviewed literature.

Of the 53 papers, 45 were co-authored by Haroon Kheshgi. I spoke to several climate scientists who worked with him and all agree, Kheshgi is a top-notch climate scientist, for example having constructively contributed to the first IPCC reports that identified a human influence on global warming.

Katharine Hayhoe, one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people, did a summer internship with Kheshgi at one of Exxon’s facilities as part of her masters’ thesis research, and subsequently co-authored a number of papers with him. Hayhoe described her experience with Kheshgi and Exxon,

Haroon himself is an outstanding scientist – careful, detailed, methodical, and committed to doing good science, just as we all are. In my experience with Exxon and with Haroon, I never met a scientist who expressed any opinions counter to those prevalent in the academic community.

Much of Exxon’s early research in the 1980s dealt with climate modeling, for example projecting that the planet’s surface temperatures would warm 3–6°C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100. Their research has often discussed the dangers associated with this degree of global warming, and many studies published by Exxon scientists investigated the possibility of mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon in the deep ocean.

The peer-reviewed research published by Exxon’s climate scientists was entirely in line with the expert consensus that humans are causing potentially dangerous global warming, and that we need to explore ways to mitigate the associated risks.

Exxon funded climate denial misinformation campaign

While Exxon’s own scientists and research were 100% aligned with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, the company simultaneously funded a campaign to manufacture doubt about that scientific consensus.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science found that groups with funding from corporations like Exxon have been particularly effective at polarizing and misinforming the public on climate change. Since 1998, Exxon has given over $31 million to organizations and individuals blocking solutions to climate change and spreading misinformation to the public.


11 Responses to “Two Faced: What #ExxonKnew vs What Exxon Did”

  1. indy222 Says:

    I would love to see the ‘disinformation’ side of this story fleshed out with more detail. I’d love to encapsulate this story for my students.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      Its a real problem that ‘dark money’ wishes to remain dark, so nobody is sure about the true extent of the infection. I don’t want to slander Exxon, but you know who else operates like that? Terrorists.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Too late—-you’ve libeled Exxon with this comment (slander is oral defamation, libel is written). But not to worry, since it’s not defamatory if it’s a true statement, and it’s not far off the mark to call Exxon’s behavior “terroristic”. Actually, in most cases a “reasonable belief” that a statement is true is an adequate defense, and by the time Exxon sues you (or me), they will be in jail themselves.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      stay tuned. will touch on this in the upcoming vid

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Go to the desmogblog link and get the names of the recipients of the $31 M.
      Google each of them on desmogblog and you’ll get a good rundown of what kinds of “disinformation” they participate in. A good assignment for your students would be to give each of them an individual or organization on which to report to you. You can encapsulate the results for next year’s classes.

  2. Do the “31 million to organisations manufacturing doubt” include donations to U,S, congress critters?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      No, the $31 M refers only to the “organizations and individuals blocking solutions to climate change and spreading misinformation to the public”, as listed in the desmogblog link at the end of the last paragraph of this post.

      Anyone not familiar with desmogblog should go there for a look. You can google “desmogblog XXXX” where XXXX is the name of any denier or denier organization and usually find a wealth of information and links.

      It’s hard to know how much Exxon Mobil funnels to politicians because it has so many ways to hide the money, as do the Kochs and the other fossil fuel interests—through lobbyists, PACS, contributions from individual E-M execs and employees.

      Exxon Mobil PAC alone has made $2 M in campaign contributions to federal congressional candidates in each of the last two years, 97% of it to Republicans. From 1998 to 2014, E-M’s contributions to congress critters probably add up to at least another $31 M. (And look at what that buys them! Inhoffe, Smith, Cruz, Rubio, et al.)

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    “Two-faced” understates the case considerably. IMO, we should put Nuccitelli on the prosecution team because he has nailed the case against Exxon nicely

    ALL of their reported science supported AGW on the one hand. On the other, they gave money to denier groups to deny and obfuscate that science. These two diametrically opposed activities, both funded by Exxon, can lead to only one conclusion. GUILTY of crimes against humanity and against science and scientists in general. They cannot talk out of both sides of their mouth and claim any equivalency between funding good science that was seen mainly by scientists and funding bad science and psywar meant to spread FUD among the public. Let the trials begin.

  4. Lionel Smith Says:

    “On the other, they gave money to denier groups to deny and obfuscate that science.”

    And as reported on over at HotWhopper David Rose has written another Judith ‘uncertainty’ Curry puff piece in The Spectator this time.

    The deception is mind blowing. One cannot paint coal and oil white, although the RN once had a regime of doing so with the former.

  5. Exxon’s response to this is that they advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best solution. Does anyone have any factual information about how much miney Exxon has spent advocating for this carbon tax? This would include funding to organizations supporting a carbon tax, as well as political contributions to candidates who advocate a carbon tax. I’m guessing the answer is pretty close to zero, but I woukd sure like to know.

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