Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Harvard Study Finds Exxon Misled Public about Climate Change

An analysis of Exxon’s research and public statements shows a sharp contrast between what the oil giant knew about climate change and what it told the public.

Exxon scientists led research into carbon dioxide changes in the oceans and atmosphere in the early 1980s, but the corporate tone shifted. “ExxonMobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it,” say the authors of a new study. (Credit: Richard Werthamer) Click to Enlarge.
A comprehensive, peer-reviewed academic study of ExxonMobil's internal deliberations, scientific research and public rhetoric over the decades has confirmed empirically that the oil giant misled the public about what it knew about climate change and the risks posed by fossil fuel emissions, the authors said on Tuesday.

The paper confirms the findings of a 2015 investigative series by InsideClimate News that was based largely on the company's internal records, and also of independent work published by the Los Angeles Times.  That reporting ignited investigations by state attorneys general that are still in litigation.

"On the question of whether ExxonMobil misled non-scientific audiences about climate science, our analysis supports the conclusion that it did," Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University wrote in the study, published Tuesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters.

Across the board, the paper found "a systematic discrepancy between what ExxonMobil's scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public," the authors said.

"ExxonMobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it," they wrote.

The authors explicitly rejected Exxon's main defense, which was to claim that journalists were "cherry picking" the company's record and that its positions had always been in step with the state of the science.  The company often said that anyone who read the full documentary record would see matters Exxon's way.

The Harvard researchers said their task was to accept Exxon's challenge to review the full record.  Among the documents they examined were dozens cited in ICN's work, as well as more than 50 scientific papers Exxon frequently mentioned in its own defense and its issue advertising.

Supran and Oreskes called their conclusions "an expansive, quantitative, independent corroboration of the findings of investigative journalists."

In an interview Supran said the evidence was unambiguous.

The authors reviewed 187 public and internal Exxon documents over the past four decades, including many that were brought to light by ICN's reporting.

In one finding they judged that 83 percent of peer-reviewed papers written by company scientists and 80 percent of the company's internal communications acknowledged that climate change is real and caused by humans.  But among Exxon's advertisements on the editorial pages of The New York Times, a proxy for communications aimed at a broad public audience, only 12 percent acknowledged climate change as real and human-caused, while 81 percent expressed doubt.

Read more at Harvard Study Finds Exxon Misled Public about Climate Change

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