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Nine Out of Ten Top Climate Deniers Linked to ExxonMobil

RP Siegel | Monday May 9th, 2011 | 29 Comments

Today’s story probably won’t come as a big surprise to anyone, but in an era where unsubstantiated assertions fly through the news media like raindrops in a hurricane, obscuring the truth to the point of near-invisibility, it’s nice when a bright beam of factual research and analysis shines in to cut through the haze.

A recent analysis conducted by Carbon Brief which investigated the authors of more than 900 published papers that cast doubt on the science underlying climate change, found that nine of the ten most prolific had some kind of relationship with ExxonMobil.

Links to these papers were proudly displayed on the denialist Global Warming Policy Foundation website, where they are still fanning the dying embers of Climategate hoping something will catch, under the heading, “900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of ‘Man-Made’ Global Warming (AGW) Alarm.”

The top ten contributors to this list were responsible for 186 of the 938 papers cited.

Foremost among them was Dr Sherwood B Idso, who personally authored 67 of them. Idso is the president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an ExxonMobil funded think tank. The second most prolific, Dr Patrick J Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, receives roughly 40% of his funding from the oil industry. Number 3 on the list, Agricultural Biologist Bruce Kimball co-authored all of his papers with the aforementioned Dr. Idso.

The report does not mention the Koch Brothers, who as we know, spent twice as much supporting climate denial groups as Exxon Mobil did.

The researchers utilized the website Needlebase to help conduct their analysis.

The idea of maintaining an atmosphere of doubt in order to keep consumers from changing their behavior is not a new one. It was developed by the tobacco industry decades ago, in their efforts to dispel research results linking second hand smoke exposure to cancer and keep the public confused on the issue.

A recent book on these tactics by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, entitled Merchants of Doubt explores “how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.”

Other prolific authors of climate-change denying include Willie Soon, John R. Christy and Sallie L Baliunas who are all associated with the George C. Marshall Institute, whose website asserts that “…efforts to reach agreement on inferences about human influence on the climate system that can be drawn from science and policy prescriptions for addressing the climate change risk have been controversial.”

Ross McKitrick is a senior fellow at the Exxon funded Fraser institute and Richard Lindzen is a member of the ‘Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy,’ which has also received Exxon funding.

Of course, the fact that these scientists’ livelihoods depend to one degree or another on a very rich oil industry with an extremely large vested interest in the outcome of the climate change “debate,” or more precisely in perpetuating the idea that there is in fact still a debate over anything more than minor details of the climate change phenomenon, does not mean that their positions on the subject are necessarily biased. However, human nature being what it is, a healthy dose of skepticism should be brought to bear here as we try to move forward on the repeated urgent warnings coming from the overwhelming majority of scientists who have studied the subject.

 

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.  Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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Categorized: Climate Change, Economics|

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  • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

    This nonsense is refuted,

    Rebuttal to “Analysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil”

    When confronted with the irrefutable fact that an overwhelming number of peer-reviewed papers exist supporting skeptic arguments, desperate alarmists like Christian will always turn to whatever smear they can come up with, in this case the tired old one that the authors were “funded” by oil companies. What is falsely implied is that these scientists are corrupt and oil companies are paying them to be skeptical. This is an easy argument to prove, you simply need to show that these scientists changed their position on AGW after receiving a monetary donation from an oil company. Alarmists never show this because they cannot. These scientists all held a skeptical position prior to receiving any monetary donations. Any monetary donations these scientists received was because the donor agreed with the scientific position that the scientist already held. Alarmists cannot comprehend this irrefutable logic because they emotionally refuse to accept that there are credentialed scientists who do not share their beliefs.

    Alarmist Challenge:

    The claims of this article have not been shown to be true. It is falsely implied that if a scientist went to a meeting for coffee and donuts hosted by an organizati­on that in the last 20 years received a $5 donation from a fossil fuel company that scientist is now “funded by the fossil fuel industry”.

    - Please provide actual documents irrefutabl­y demonstrat­ing direct fossil fuel company funding for any scientist.

    - Then prove that the same scientist has received enough energy company donations to sustain all their research over the years.

    - Finally prove that the same scientist changed their scientific position regarding AGW due to a monetary donation and did not hold a skeptical position prior to the donation.

    http://z4.invisionfree.com/Popular_Technology/index.php?showtopic=4030

    • Mosquitofeet

      Irrefutable?? The contention is laughable. I suggest that anyone with a real interest, as opposed to an ax to grind, read the original 3 part blog,http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/04/900-papers-supporting-climate-scepticism-exxon-links.
      Also, “Any monetary donations these scientists received was because the donor agreed with the scientific position that the scientist already held. ” EXACTLY. That’s NOT SCIENCE, that’s advocacy. As a scientist, when I review a grant proposal I (and any other decent scientist) looks for a clear, testable hypothesis. We don’t fund ANYTHING because we agree with it.

      • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

        You will not be laughing after I post my actual investigation of the false claims made here and at the Carbon Brief.

        I said why they might receive a monetary donation not grant funding. Try reading what is written.

  • Steve Ray

    Who’s Christian? Are you copy/pasting comments?

    You make a legit argument that it’s borderline alarmist to say 9/10 without specifying exactly what that means – actual politically charged funding, or donuts. Fair enough.

    But statements like “overwhelming number of peer-reviewed papers exist supporting skeptic arguments” are total bollocks.

    First of all – what do you mean by skeptical? that they refute we’re heading to Armageddon? or that they refute that “agw” as you put it even exists? There are next to no serious scientific documents refuting the latter.

    Exactly how global warming will manifest and what we should do about it – those things are debatable, but not the fact that fossil fuels are making a mess of things.

    • Meme Mine

      Explain the clear blue sky above you before you condemn the world to a CO2 deaath. Explain how we defeated the smoggy 70′s when a river caught fire in Ohio. Explain how most of the American Rust Belt has not had a smog warning in over 5 years. Instead of being such a miserable doomer, try being brave and celebrating environmentalism and scaring our kids with DEATH BY CO2.

      • Steve Ray

        Meme – have you been drinking again?

        1) Condemn the world to death? I clearly said that it’s “debatable” exactly what the consequences of global warming will be. I implied that “Armageddon” is not likely, but that we should still try to do something about it.

        2) You must be joking about how we “Defeated smoggy skies” right? The answer is government regulation, better fuel standards, and SO2 cap and trade – exactly the things the denialist goons are trying to stop with regards to greenhouse gasses.

        • Meme Mine

          Nope. You cant avoid this one. IS my kid going to die an unspeakable death from CO2 yes or no? It’s been 25 years, CO2 levels are still rising despite fewer human contributions, Obama never even mentioned the crisis in the state of the union speech and it’s impossible at this point to expect the now controlling former believers to vote yes to taxing the air to make the weather colder. Go ahead scientists. Study the effects of something that never happened all you like. Go for it. We the voters have the real consensus that matters and there is now strong talk of arresting key scientists and news editors for this needless and costly panic of the CO2 blunder. It wasn’t pollution or energy or waste, it was a death threat and a criminal exaggeration.

    • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

      Christian is the author of the Carbon Brief article referenced here.

      What I mean is supporting skeptic arguments against AGW Alarm defined as, “concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic.”

      It is debatable the extent of the influence fossil fuels are having on the climate and if it is cause for concern.

  • Meme Mine

    Too funny. Talk about conspiracy theories.
    EXXON has a gun to my head and tells me how to think now?
    Will that gun be to my head when I vote for taxes to make the weather colder too?
    Now we should arrest the fear mongers of journalism for this crime of needless panic. Call the courthouse everyone. Do it now!

  • Zak

    i believe that pollution is fucking up the planet but this article could be better written in order to better make it’s claim. it’s almost as misleading as the climate reports being created by scientists working for the oil industry.
    the article stated:

    “The top ten contributors to this list were responsible for 186 of the 938 papers cited.”

    so 9 (who are sponsored by exxonmobile) of the 10 contributors were responsible for less than 19% of the climate change denying articles. that’s hardly an overwhelming number.

  • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

    Zak:The title clearly states “nine out of top ten…”
    The full analysis has not yet been completed. There will likely be more, possibly many more, once Carbon Brief has gone through all the papers.
    Poptech: If you read the last paragraph you will see that I acknowledge that these authors are not necessarily biased by their compensation. But to suggest that looking at their position before and after publication “proves” anything is insufficient. Only the authors themselves and perhaps those who know them personally know what motivates their positions. They could be heirs to oil fortunes for all we know. What do you stand to lose by considering the possibility that the hundreds of scientists who agree that GHG induced climate change presents an enormous threat to our planet’s future biological viability might be correct? If everyone waited for irrefutable evidence before taking action, as you apparently intend to do, we would indeed be in very big trouble.

    • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

      If you are unable to provide the following,

      - Please provide actual documents irrefutabl­y demonstrat­ing direct fossil fuel company funding for any scientist.

      - Then prove that the same scientist has received enough energy company donations to sustain all their research over the years.

      - Finally prove that the same scientist changed their scientific position regarding AGW due to a monetary donation and did not hold a skeptical position prior to the donation.

      Then you are not participating in journalism but propaganda intended to smear credentialed scientists and their work.

      It is one thing to disagree with a scientists position it is completely different to accuse them of corruption without evidence.

      • Meme Mine

        Climate Change Theory WAS:
        1-there WILL be effects.
        2-those effects will range from negligible to unstoppable warming.
        So what’s not to agree with when scientists, media fear mongers and (politicians acting like they are doing something for you), all get a free pass? They studied the effects of something that never did happen, isn’t happening and never will happen. The entire “science” is a disco science assumption. “All the scientists agree” is no different from “Praise be to God”. History is watching.
        It wasn’t science, pollution, or energy or waste. It was failed death threat to billions of children and most of all, a criminal exaggeration.
        Scientists also produced cruise missiles, cancer causing chemical cocktails, land mine technology, nuclear weapons, germ warfare, cluster bombs, strip mining technology, Y2K, Y2Kyoto, deep sea drilling technology and now climate control. They WILL be arrested for this. Just watch.

  • Cynthia Bergman

    This is Cynthia from ExxonMobil. In reading this post, I was unable to find the specific list of the ‘9 out of 10’ organizations mentioned. The piece also conveniently ignores the hundreds of millions of dollars we are investing in new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas missions and manage the risk of climate change.

    We’ve committed $100 million to the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University. We’ve invested $100 million in a new technology to help remove carbon dioxide from produced natural gas streams. We’ve committed $600 million in algae biofuels that could one day help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And, since 2005, we’ve spent more than $1.3 billion in activities to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.

    Also, the list of groups we fund can be found on our website, at: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/community_wwgiving_report.aspx.

    Our website also has more information on our position on climate change and steps we are taking to reduce emissions: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/safety_climate.aspx.

    • Dave Shires

      Cynthia – good to have input from the source here.

      I think it’s great that Exxon has begun to fund research into new fuels, but Exxon also is a known funder of the CEI who created this insane “Co2 is life” ad. Am I right?

      http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/05/co2_we_call_it.php

      If that’s not funding dis-information, then I don’t know what is.

      Assuming I’m right, and Exxon is indirectly responsible for that video, what’s your response? (If I’m wrong, I appologize)

    • Tris

      Cynthia, why bother with your efficiency investment if man-made global warming isn’t a problem? And will efficiency increases grow exponentially, offsetting demand? Think the 2nd law might have a problem with that.

      In the context of annual profits of $9.25 billion, lumping all investment of $1.3 over 6 years represents roughly 2%, say. Investing (not donating) this in a growing market AND placating the green lobby in one move hardly comes across as pro bono. Suppose Marlboro (owned by Altria) invested 2% of their annual profits (~$1bn) in cancer research (so $20m) and piously argued that their impact was health-neutral, how would that come across to you?

  • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

    Cynthia. Thanks for your response. This piece was focused on the Carbon Brief study. The story of ExxonMobil’s funding of denier groups was not broken here, but has been well circulated. This is an extension of that story which adds another layer of detail about the authors and their prolificity.
    I did not see all the groups mentioned in the article on the link you sent (which was for 2009). If the company has backed away from some of these, that is probably a good thing. By the way, I am happy to run a positive story if you have one that’s compelling.

    • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

      There is no story to “break” because no one has provided any evidence of direct funding, let alone sustainable funding or any corruption.

      How can they back away from something there is not evidence that they did?

      • http://twitter.com/PhoenixWomanMN Phoenix Woman

         Liar.  If there was no story, you wouldn’t be spinning so hard trying to drown it out.

  • Jen Sant’Anna

    Regardless of who pays whom for what opinion, according to ExxonMobil’s annual report, they spend a lot of money trying to reduce their emissions and reduce their climate change risks. From page 7 of their 2010 Annual Report:”Meeting growing demand while addressing climate change risk is the global challenge that shapes ExxonMobil’s activities and
    investments. Since 2005, we have invested $1.6 billion in activities that improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We have also invested more than $5 billion in projects to reduce natural gas flaring. As a result, we have reduced our GHG emissions 11 million tonnes in 2010 compared to 2005.

    We have also been active in developing and applying carbon capture and storage technology to store carbon dioxide (CO2) in underground geologic formations. In addition, our substantial natural gas portfolio has the potential to help reduce GHG emissions because natural gas has lower CO2 emissions per unit of energy. We are also investing in research programs on algae biofuels and technologies that help consumers use energy more efficiently.”

    • Meme Mine

      But since CO2 is not a poison or a pollutant or a problem and is really just the harmless gas that it always was………..what’s the point?

  • http://www.omsriram.com bobashworth

    Exxon and all other fossil fuel companies should fight this global scam but they really are not doing a very good job. The people of the world need to demand truth in science and carbon dioxide causing global warming is bogus. It is just the opposite. It causes a slight cooling effect. Water vapor cools the earth as well. See below:

    NASA scientists claimed Cirrus clouds, formed by contrails from aircraft engine exhaust, are capable of increasing average surface temperatures enough to account for the warming trend in the United States that occurred between 1975 and 1994. “According to Patrick Minnis, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., there has been a one percent per decade increase in cirrus cloud cover over the United States, likely due to air traffic. Cirrus clouds exert a warming influence on the surface by allowing most of the sun’s rays to pass through but then trapping some of the resulting heat emitted by the surface and lower atmosphere.”

    This explanation is wrong. These clouds will cool the earth, not warm it. There is more radiant energy coming from the sun to the earth than from the earth to the sky. More radiant energy will be blocked during the day than will be blocked leaving the earth at night (insulating effect). The overall effect is cooling, not warming.

    This cooling effect of water vapor was proved following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Atmospheric scientists studied the effect of water vapor on temperature in the wake of the attacks. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibited commercial aviation over the United States for three days following the attacks and this presented a unique opportunity to study the temperature of the earth without airplanes and their contrails.

    Dr. David Travis, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin, along with two other scientists, looked at how temperatures for those three days compared to other days when planes were flying. They analyzed maximum and minimum temperature data from about 4,000 weather stations throughout the conterminous (48 states) United States for the period 1971–2000, and compared those to the conditions that prevailed during the three-day aircraft grounding period and the three days when planes were flying before and after the grounding period. This research effort was sponsored by grants from the National Science Foundation.

    They found that the average daily temperature range between highs and lows was 1.1 degrees C higher during September 11-14 (no airplanes flying) compared to September 8-11 and September 14-17 with normal air traffic.

    The data proved that contrails (water vapor trails) have a net cooling effect. Water vapor, CO2 and particulate in the atmosphere all reflect as well as scatter some radiant energy back to outer space and this causes cooling.

    Here is a simple test, go outside when the sun is shining, see how warm you feel when you are in the direct sunlight and compare that with how warm you feel when a cloud goes overhead and you are in the shade of the cloud. Of course you feel cooler in the shade of the cloud; a child knows this. So Dr. Travis confirmed this with scientific analysis of real data that most people on this planet already know (try common sense).

    • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

      So let me get this straight. You’re saying that because some NASA scientist might have been wrong about the effect of cirrus clouds on average temperatures, that proves that man made global warming is a scam. That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? As far as the cirrus cloud question is concerned, I’ve not seen the paper, but having studied radiation heat transfer at the graduate level, I can tell you that it’s a bit more complicated than simply standing under a tree on a sunny day.
      Water vapor, which is what clouds are made of, is a significant greenhouse gas itself. There are much simpler and more direct ways of measuring this than what Travis did. The determining factor in the greenhouse effect is the wavelength of the energy trying to pass through and the wavelength coming in is significantly different from that trying to exit.

      • http://www.exxonmobil.com Alan

        It’s Alan Jeffers from ExxonMobil
        Thanks to RP for your response to my colleague Cynthia’s comment yesterday.
        On the issue of funding, ExxonMobil promotes discussion on issues of direct relevance to the company and we contribute to a wide range of academic and policy organizations, including the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Resources for the Future.
        We annually review our support of tax-exempt organizations and post a list of them on our website. The 2010 list will be finalized and posted shortly.
        Over the past several years, we have discontinued contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.
        As Cynthia noted yesterday, we take the issue of climate change seriously and believe the risks warrant action.
        ExxonMobil is taking action by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our operations, helping consumers reduce their emissions, supporting research into technology breakthroughs and participating in constructive dialogue on policy options with NGOs, industry and policy makers.
        Thanks for the opportunity to provide a little context on your site.

        • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

          Thanks Alan,
          I’m glad to hear that you are no longer putting money on horses that won’t run in this important race. Perhaps you could clarify the assertion in this article by the League of Conservation Voters that says that Exxon continued to fund these groups even after saying you had stopped. http://www.reallyseriously.org/2010/02/big-shock-exxons-still-funding-climate.html I think more transparency on this issue would be a benefit to all concerned,

  • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

    Are Skeptical Scientists funded by ExxonMobil?

    In an article titled, “Analysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil” from the environmental activist website The Carbon Brief, former Greenpeace “researcher” Christian Hunt failed to do basic research. He made no attempt to contact the scientists he unjustly attacked and instead used biased and corrupt websites like DeSmogBlog to smear them as “linked to” [funded by] ExxonMobil.

    To get to the truth, I emailed the scientists mentioned in the article the following questions;

    1. Have you ever received direct funding from ExxonMobil?

    2. Do funding sources have any influence over your scientific work?

    3. Has your scientific position regarding climate change ever changed due to a funding source?

    4. Please include any additional comment on the article,

    Their responses follow,

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2011/05/are-skeptical-scientists-funded-by.html

    • Bob Siegel

      @poptech Great that you’re taking the initiative to do that, but your questions are softball with holes in them large enough to drive an oil tanker through. Of course most of them will deny receiving DIRECT funding, That’s not the way it usually works. Ask them if they are or have been affiliated with the groups mentioned in the article. Ask them what, if any affiliations, direct or indirect they have had with Exxon or any other oil company, including any groups or programs that are or have been funded (directly or indirectly) by these companies in the past.
      These funding networks (e.g. Koch brothers are shadowy) and in some cases the scientists might not even know the original source of the funds. When you’re done asking those questions, then perhaps you’d be willing to answer them yourself.

      • http://www.populartechnology.net Poptech

        Your conspiracy theories are noted.

        Why don’t you provide a shred of evidence that they are funded in anyway by Exxon. Guilt by association is not “funding”.

  • Roger

    Wow – that hit mother lode of nerve bundles eh? when you get closer to the truth, the powers at be really get their molecular heating quickly?

    You know it can be argued that this is a terrorist organization meant for short term profit holding our grand children their food chain hostage. That makes them a National Security threat and maybe we should declare war.