Exxon Oils the Palms of Climate Science Deniers
Word that ExxonMobil is still funding climate science deniers comes as no surprise but does reveal much about how feckless and arrogant the company is. Basically, the oil major is playing with us while thinking we won’t notice.
A long piece this month in the Huffington Post by Elliott Negin, a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, outlined ExxonMobil’s current approach on climate change. It also noted this carefully parsed statement from spokesman Richard Kiel: “We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.”
That sounds good as far as it goes, but as the HuffPost article notes, “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.”
Climate science deniers grudgingly concede that climate change is occurring but question or reject the idea that human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels, is behind 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,” Negin continues.
And ExxonMobil is funding these people. Here’s what he found: “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 and 2014, the company spent at least $10 million on climate science denier organizations to spread disinformation and undermine efforts to address climate change.” The company spent nearly $21 million from 1998 through 2006 to fund denier groups.
While the funding of 40-plus denier groups in 2007 has decreased to about 15, organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, and Manhattan Institute for Policy Research “are still doing their best to sow doubt about climate science and denigrate renewable energy.”
It makes for fascinating reading, including Negin’s response to Keil’s statement that ExxonMobill believes “the risk of climate change is clear, and warrants action.”
Oh really? Negin wrote:
“A close reading of the transcript of the company’s annual shareholders meeting in May says otherwise. Over the last 25 years, ExxonMobil has repeatedly fended off shareholder resolutions to address climate change, and this year was no different. The message was loud and clear: Stay the course. Technological ingenuity will enable us to cope with the consequences.
“One shareholder-sponsored resolution called on the company to set goals for curbing carbon emissions. Another would have required the company to appoint a climate change expert to its board. Still another requested a report on the company’s state and federal lobbying expenditures, including lobbying through trade associations and other organizations, such as ALEC. The answer was no, no and no. None of the climate-related resolutions passed.
“In his opening statement at the meeting, CEO Rex Tillerson predicted that oil and natural gas ‘will meet about 60 percent of global energy in the year 2040.’ And when asked later why he uttered nary a word about renewable energy in his remarks, Tillerson quipped, ‘We choose not to lose money on purpose’ to loud applause.”
That’s the ExxonMobil we’ve come to know! Will it ever understand the message of climate change and how it has contributed to a mindset of denial and obfuscation in the name of preserving profit? Not likely: this is a company that doesn’t understand the power it could wield as part of the climate change solution, and that’s a shame and a tragedy—a continuing tragedy largely of its own making. No, the message is arrogance and full steam ahead on maximizing quarterly profits no matter the consequences of climate change. Is there a more intellectually dishonest and ethically criminal company? If there ever is a reckoning, this is a company that will have a lot to answer for.
Image: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill — 0051 by ARLIS Reference via Flickr cc — Aerial of oiled beach at high tide – Hoof Point (Gulf of Alaska). September 13, 1989