Royal Society Puts Exxon-Mobil on Notice

by Val Germann

At last an element of the scientific community is taking positive steps to mop up what can only be called the oil slick of misinformation being spread by many of the world’s major energy companies. The chief offender has for many years been Exxon-Mobil, the old Standard Oil of New Jersey plus New York. In a recent letter to that company, England’s Royal Society, the oldest scientific association in the world, read them the riot act, as a REUTERS article reported today:

Britain’s national academy of science, the Royal Society, has accused U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. of misleading the public into thinking that the role of humans in climate change is still open to doubt.

For many years Exxon-Mobil has been funding, often behind the scenes, various organizations and researchers who share the company’s official views on human-induced climate change. However, this is the first time, to my knowledge, that ANY scientific organization has directly taken on a giant corporation in this way. Exxon-Mobil is likely the most profitable single economic entity on Earth and for decades its various components have been the very definition of “multi-national,” its influence reaching around the world. No group of mere scientists, even one as prestigious as the Royal Society, can dare to pubicly rebuke an outift like Exxon without carefully measuring the risks, and then deciding to proceed anyway. And procede they do, through spokesman Bob Ward:

According to Ward’s own analysis of Exxon’s Corporate Giving Report, the company last year funded 64 groups conducting climate change research, of which 25 were in line with mainstream climate science and 39 were “misleading”.

Funding both sides of a debate, at least in part, is an old tactic of large U.S. corporations, who fund both political parties, too. It’s perfect cover and Exxon does not flinch from playing that card, as is shown by part of their reply to Ward and the society:

“These organizations do not speak on our behalf, nor do we control their views and messages. They may or may not hold similar views to ours.”

Of course they don’t, or do, as the case may be. But take away funding from outfits like Exxon and the large majority of voices in opposition to the current scientific consensus on climate change would likely fall silent.

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About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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