Exxon Mobil and the Koch Brothers have funded studies disputing climate change, it has recently been revealed in a scientific paper published on Monday, November 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Research was conducted by a team of experts led by Justin Farell, sociologist at Yale University. Data produced between 1993 and 2013 was reviewed, including articles and policy statements released by 164 organizations and over 4,500 individuals who had contested climate change.
The opponents had either denied that this phenomenon is actually occurring, or had claimed that it’s not related in any way to man-made activities.
Farell focused especially on documents whose authors had been supported and paid by Exxon Mobil and the Koch Family foundations.
Both of these organizations had a vested interest in calling climate change under question. For example, Exxon is one of the world’s supermajors, being the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company.
Similarly, Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the U.S., being involved in major sectors such as refining, distribution of petroleum, fibers and polymers, fertilizers, and many others.
Upon analyzing texts that had been funded by these corporations, against others that had received no such financial support, Farell identified an obvious “ecosystem of influence”.
Namely, lobbying firms, think-tanks and individuals who had been sponsored by the Koch brothers and by Exxon were much more vehement in denying climate change, and in casting doubt that it had been accelerated by industrial activities, such as the burning of fossil fuel.
Especially after 2008, organizations which had received this type of funding were more likely to promote wishy-washy statements regarding global warming, in a coordinated effort to misinform and mislead the general public.
For example, many such centers funded by corporate giants insisted on the idea that climate change was actually just a natural cycle, unrelated in any way to pollution or deforestation.
They were also more keen to advance the idea that in fact greenhouse gas emissions were beneficial for the environment, by boosting plant and forest growth, by maximizing crop yields and by offering many other advantages.
In other words, they were trying to suggest that in the supposedly unlikely scenario where climate change was real, its negative effects had been overblown so as to induce widespread, unnecessary panic.
Farell’s findings aren’t actually that surprising to Robert Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University.
As he explained, organizations backed by major players in the petroleum industry are more consistent and forceful in their efforts to undermine scientific consensus regarding global warming.
This way, climate change turns into a polarizing topic, and fewer efforts are undertaken to combat its effects, which can only benefit oil and gas companies, whose activity remains unregulated.
This new research comes in the heels of other disturbing revelations regarding Exxon’s practices.
An Inside Climate News Investigation has determined that company officials had been aware ever since 1977 that global warming is influenced by greenhouse gas emissions, resulting from the burning for fossil fuels for transportation, electricity and heat.
However, despite having this irrefutable data, Exxon had continued to fund studies and articles disclaiming climate change and its man-made origins.
In total, it had spent approximately $25 million ever since 1998 in order to support skeptic groups, and even if it had pledged back in 2007 to stop this practice, it had continued to make such financial contributions, amounting to millions of dollars on an annual basis.
Following these accusations, Exxon has been issued a subpoena by the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, through which it’s being compelled to provide financial records and any relevant documents and emails pertaining to its climate change research.
Meanwhile, Exxon spokesperson Richard Keil has insisted that the company hadn’t attempted to downplay scientific data related to this phenomenon, and that all of its studies have been conducted publicly and transparently, while monitored by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and by the Department of Energy.
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