Don’t miss out. Stay Informed. Get EcoWatch’s Top News of the Day.
ExxonMobil spokesman Richard Keil told a carefully worded whopper last week.
After the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) revealed that Exxon was aware of the threat posed by climate change as early as 1981 and has intentionally been deceiving the public for decades, reporters contacted Keil for comment. One reporter asked him about ExxonMobil’s long history of funding climate change denier groups.
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) July 9, 2015
“I’m here to talk to you about the present,” Keil said. “We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007. We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.”
ExxonMobil no longer funds climate change deniers?! Is that right?
Technically, perhaps, because practically no one can say with a straight face that global warming isn’t happening anymore. Most, if not all, of the people who used to deny the reality of climate change have morphed into climate science deniers. They now concede that climate change is real, but reject the scientific consensus that human activity—mainly burning fossil fuels—is driving it. Likewise, they understate the potential consequences, contend that we can easily adapt to them, and fight government efforts to curb carbon emissions and promote renewable energy.
ExxonMobil is still funding those folks, big time.
Keil said he wanted to talk about the present, so why don’t we? According to the most recent publicly available data, last year ExxonMobil spent $659,000 on congressional climate-science-denier political campaigns and $1.9 million on 15 denier think tanks, advocacy groups and trade associations for a total of $2.56 million. Meanwhile, between 2007—when Keil said ExxonMobil began to factor in the ramifications of a carbon tax—and 2014, the company spent at least $10 million on climate science denier organizations to spread disinformation and undermine efforts to address climate change.
ExxonMobil Claimed it Stopped Funding Deniers Eight Years Ago
This isn’t the first time ExxonMobil has denied it was sponsoring a climate disinformation campaign.
Back in 2007, a UCS report revealed that the oil giant had shelled out at least $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of more than 40 climate denier think tanks and advocacy groups to advance its agenda. Widely covered by the news media, the report prompted ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to acknowledge that his company had a PR problem. “We recognize that we need to soften our public image,” he said, according to a January 10 story in Greenwire, a trade publication. “It is something we are working on.”
A month later, just after the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, an ExxonMobil official followed through on Tillerson’s promise to temper the company’s position.
“There is no question that human activity is the source of carbon dioxide emissions,” Kenneth Cohen, vice president of public affairs, told Greenwire on Feb. 9. “The appropriate debate isn’t on whether climate is changing, but rather should be on what we should be doing about it.” But what about the 40-plus ExxonMobil grantees UCS identified in its report? Cohen told Greenwire that the company had stopped funding them.
In fact, the company did not stop funding them. ExxonMobil’s documented support for denier groups did peak at $3.48 million in 2005, when the company began to cut off grantees. That year, it severed ties with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and over the next two years, it dropped a number of others, including the Cato Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute and Institute for Energy Research.
The company’s funding to denier groups, however, remained substantial, second only to the Koch brothers’ war chest. The company spent nearly $21 million from 1998 through 2006 and some $10 million from 2007 through 2014. Last year, the company paid out $1.9 million to 15 denier groups, including 10 cited in the 2007 UCS report.
The Disinformation Campaign Continues ExxonMobil’s climate science denier network may have shrunk since 2007, but the 15 groups currently in the company’s stable, including the American Enterprise Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute and National Black Chamber of Commerce, are still doing their best to sow doubt about climate science and denigrate renewable energy.
Let’s take a quick look at what these four emblematic groups are doing.