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Greenpeace Report: Koch Industries - Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine
and follow-up report Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial 2011 Update
New Yorker Article: The Billionaire Koch Brothers’ War Against Obama
Al Jazeera Video on the Koch brothers
ExxonMobil has a long history of funding climate denial, and has given in total around $23 million to organisations aiming to undermine climate science. The company was created in 1999 with the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Both companies who were already active in campaigning against climate change legislationas part of the Global Climate Coalition. In 1997 the Coalition sponsored the Global Climate Information Project, (GCIP). The GCIP ran an advertising campaign in the USA against the Kyoto agreement, reported by the Los Angeles Times to have cost $13 million.
In 1998 Exxon helped plan the American Petroleum Institute’s Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan. This recognised that economic reasons for refusing to act on climate change would not be as effective as undermining the science. Drawn up before climate negotiations in Buenos Aires, the plan stated:
“Victory will be achieved when:
... Average citizens understand (recognise) uncertainties in climate science
... Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality"
Part of the strategy was to enable decision makers to raise “such serious questions about the Kyoto treaty’s scientific underpinnings that American policy makers not only will refuse to endorse it, they will seek to prevent progress towards implementation”.
This focus on the science has been vital to the success of the campaign by vested interests to prevent actionon climate change. There are marked similarities with the tactics tobacco companies have used in the past, as detailed in the report on ExxonMobil, Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air, by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Greenpeace report, Exxon’s Weapons of Mass Deception, shows the close links that ExxonMobil had with the Bush administration, funding political campaigns and lobbying against the Kyoto treaty. In April 2002 Dr Robert Watson was removed as chair of the IPCC, following concerted lobbying by the Bush administration. A leaked memorandum to the White House shows ExxonMobil recommending his removal.
Under pressure, ExxonMobil conceded in its 2007 Corporate Citizenship Report, "In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner."
However, this funding has clearly continued. In 2009 ExxonMobil gave around $1.3 million to at least 24 organisations known for working to create doubt about global warming. This is a reduction from the peak funding in 2005 of over $3.5 million, but includes, for example $100,000 to the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, co-sponsors of the 2009 conference of leading climate sceptics entitled "Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis?". The web of funding can be difficult to unravel, for example the Atlas Foundation in turn supports more than 30 other foreign think-tanks that espouse climate change scepticism. Greenpeace has mapped some of the organisations and individuals linked to Exxon with an interactive tool.
Key ‘sceptic’ scientists receive funding from multiple sources. For example Dr Willie Soon is most famous for his influential, although thoroughly debunked, paper with Sallie Baliunas attacking the ‘hockey stick’ graph of global temperatures, funded by the American Petroleum Institute (API).In 2007 Soon co-authored a a ‘viewpoint’, published in the journal Ecological Complexity that stated that polar bears were not under threat from global warming and that Arctic sea ice decline was less severe than had been thought. As a ‘viewpoint’, this was not peer-reviewed but has become a key reference for those arguing that polar bears are not under threat from climate change. This piece of work by an astrophysicist (hardly the most relevant field to polar bear ecology) was funded by ExxonMobil, API and the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation. Dr Soon’s work and funding has been detailed by Greenpeace (more here, also criticism of the science).
The American Enterprise Institute, also funded by ExxonMobil, sent letters to scientists and economists in 2007 offering $10,000 for articles criticising the 2007 IPCC report. Recent analysis by Carbon Brief found that of the ten most referenced authors in a list of papers alleged to support climate scepticism, nine had funding links to ExxonMobil.
Carbon Brief profile on ExxonMobil
Exxon's Weapons of Mass Deception
Dealing in Doubt
'Exxon secrets' funding map