Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Bill DiBenedetto headshot

ExxonMobil Still Oils the Palms of Climate Science Deniers


This is probably no surprise, but word that ExxonMobil is still funding climate science deniers also reveals how feckless and arrogant the company is.

Actually that’s no surprise either. It’s like if you complain long enough and loud enough, or nuance the “debate” enough — with unlimited funds backing you up — it somehow can make a wrong conclusion look right, deflect it, or at least drown out the opposition.

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 and also cited this carefully parsed statement from spokesman Richard Keil: “We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change."

That sounds good as far as it goes, because 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 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 those people. Here’s what Negin 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 ExxonMobil believes “the risk of climate change is clear, and warrants action.” 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.”

The message: Full steam ahead on maximizing quarterly profits no matter the consequences of climate change. Also full steam ahead on the disinformation campaign: We should be long past the time when the oil majors think they can turn the evidence about climate change around. ExxonMobil’s stubborn activity is intellectually dishonest and ethically criminal.

Image: Exxon by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

Read more stories by Bill DiBenedetto

More stories from Energy & Environment