ExxonMobil Still Pays for Climate Confusion

ExxonMobil continues to fund climate change deniersDespite the overwhelming consensus of scientists, a recent Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans still believe that global warming is caused by natural conditions, not by the emission of greenhouse gas pollutants from human activity. For an issue of settled science, that figure is startlingly high – after all, how many people still believe that the sun revolves around the earth? – but it’s not an accident. The oil company ExxonMobil is among the corporations that have paid out millions to lobbying organizations and academics who question whether global warming is a real phenomenon, or who claim that a link between global warming and human activity has not been established.

Investing in Anti-Science

Responding to shareholder concerns at a 2008 meeting, ExxonMobil pledged to reduce its support for organizations that deny climate science. One example would be ExxonMobil’s support for The Heartland Institute, a lobbying group also known for its long time work for the tobacco industry. ExxonMobil has also been a major funder of the well known climate denier Wei Hock Soon. A new report from Greenpeace U.S.A. indicates that ExxonMobil does appear to be spending less on climate denial, though as of last year it was still devoting some funds to the effort.

Climate Denial Investment Pays Off

Reducing its investment in climate deniers may have had more to do with a sound business decision by ExxonMobil than an exercise in corporate social responsibility. The investment has already paid off in the form of increased public confusion over the reality of climate change, so there is no justification for continuing to spend money at the same rate. Compared to just three years ago the aforementioned Gallup poll found that significantly fewer people now believe that the effects of global warming have already begun, and fewer people believe that man-made pollution is the cause of global warming. More people also doubt that the effects of global warming will ever occur. The Gallup report concludes that “Americans are clearly less concerned about global warming and its effects than they were a few years ago.”

ExxonMobil and Profitability

Much has been written about the corporate culture of ExxonMobil, but it can be summed up as a singular – and singularly successful – focus on profits. Over the past few years, while other oil companies invested in alternative energy projects that did not always pan out, ExxonMobil invested in a public relations exercise that has paid enormous returns by dampening public support for alternative energy, which after all would compete directly with its core business.

Other Ways to Support Climate Change Denial

As for the follow-through on its pledge, ExxonMobil may have followed the letter of that agreement by reducing support for high profile lobbyists and academic personalities. However, as of this writing it appears that ExxonMobil is still represented on the Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that writes and disseminates model legislation at the state level. In addition to its recent involvement with controversial state-level legislation on union rights, immigration, and student voter identification, ALEC’s templates have generated bills and resolutions that withdraw states from regional greenhouse gas reduction agreements. Until ExxonMobil adopts a more diversified energy profile, expect to see a continued investment in actions that work against climate change management.

Image: Pumping gas by David Reber’s Hammer Photography on flickr.com.

Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

4 responses

  1. I’ll say from researching and doing a college project on it that climate change is natural, but we humans are speeding up the process. People need to remember the ice ages happened when nature put to much CO2 and greenhouse gases as well as other particles into the atmosphere. And with tectonic plates shifting nature has had to re-adjust what goes where in order to show down and nearly stabilize the process till natural progression takes hold again.

    1. Another amateur arm chair climatologist. Too funny.
      If you still think humans are causing a climate crisis, at least ACT like its the worst emergency ever as the saintly scientists say it is. Get a sign that says THE END IS NEAR and start marching.
      Follow the crowd sheaple.
      If there were consequences for you CO2 climate crisis believers shooting your mouths off and condeming my kids to a death by CO2, you wouldn’t be crying that the sky is falling.

  2. We former believers are accused of accusing believers of calling the CO2 hoax a conspiracy. Yes a conspiracy,like the believer’s conspiracy that says as I type this, a check from Exxon sits on the desk and an oil exec is holding a gun to my head.

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