Big Money Confusing Public On Global Warming - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Big Money Confusing Public On Global Warming

A new report details what it calls an "enormously successful" disinformation campaign by ExxonMobil that used tobacco-industry tactics to fund groups who cast doubts and deceive the public on the scientific consensus regarding global warming.

The report was released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in Massachusetts.

The report found that between 1998 and 2005, ExxonMobil has funnelled about $16 million to 43 advocacy groups and 16 individuals in an effort to "manufacture uncertainty" and ultimately stall government action that would require a mandatory cut in greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide. The group said the figures in the report were compiled from ExxonMobil corporate reports.

"ExxonMobil has, in a cynical and manipulative strategy, helped create a kind of echo chamber to amplify the views of a carefully selected group of spokespeople whose work has been largely discredited by the scientific community," said Seth Schulman, the report's primary author, in a conference call today with reporters.

The strategy is built on the notion, the report found, that "public opinion can be easily manipulated because science is complex, because people tend not to notice where their information comes from, and because the effects of global warming are just beginning to become visible."

The report compared the company's efforts to the strategy used by tobacco companies to downplay the effects of smoking.

The vast majority of the world's climate scientists agree that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are contributing to a greenhouse gas effect that has warmed the globe at an unprecedented rate.

The group detailed the financial connections between ExxonMobil and a number of organizations, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center.

ExxonMobil has said it is reviewing the organizations the company funds and has noted that the Competitive Enterprise Institute did not receive any Exxon money this year.

The UCS report also found that ExxonMobil has, through various organizations, funded a number of climate science contrarians. In the conference call, several were singled out, including Dr. Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Baliunas coauthored a widely criticized 2003 article that suggested natural cycles, not human activity, are causing the planet to warm. The report was widely cited by groups that receive funding from ExxonMobil, according to UCS.

Contacted by ABC News, Baliunas declined to comment on the UCS report because she had not yet seen it.

In October, Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote a letter to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, asking the company to "come clean about its past denial activities."

A month earlier, Britain's scientific academy - the Royal Society - criticized ExxonMobil for funding groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change, by outright denial of the evidence that greenhouse gases are driving climate change, or by overstating the amount and significance of uncertainty in knowledge."

The company responded in a statement, saying "we know that carbon emissions are one of the factors that contribute to climate change - we don't debate or dispute this."

Tillerson also acknowledged the issue of global warming in comments to a group of business executives in November, saying "the potential risks to society could prove to be significant, so despite the areas of uncertainties that do exist, it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the potential risks."

However, phone calls to ExxonMobil requesting comment on the new Union of Concerned Scientists report were not immediately returned to ABC News.

The report recommends that ExxonMobil executives be called to testify before Congress.

The full Union of Concerned Scientists report can be found here.


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