ExxonSecrets was born out of a need to easily explain the
complex web of organizations, pundits, lobbyists and skeptic
scientists running Exxon's campaign to deny and undermine the
scientific evidence on global warming.
Greenpeace has followed been following the anti-Kyoto crowd
since the early 1990's. The same scientists and spokespeople kept
popping up, along with the same organizations who were either
backing, employing or celebrating the skeptic voices.
We found the easiest way to show the links between all the
groups and individuals was to do it graphically. Thus we developed
and launched the ExxonSecrets map tool in 2004. The code was
developed by Josh On (of They Rule.net), the graphics by Amy
Balkin. The project leaders at Greenpeace were Kert Davies and
While the rest of the world is now accepting climate change and
moving on the issue, especially in the business sector, ExxonMobil
continues to fund the think tanks and organizations who are running
a decades-long campaign denying the consensus of urgency from
climate scientists and attacking policies to abate global warming.
A major shift by ExxonMobil would send strong signals throughout
the business world. While Exxon isn't the only company funding
these organizations, it has played a leading role in several key
anti-environmental lobby groups, including the Global Climate
Coalition and the American Petroleum Institute.
But doesn't Exxon say it cares about climate change?
Exxon might "take climate change seriously" but the reality is
that it has been spearheading this campaign to undermine action on
climate change for many many years. The company has recently
recognized that its longstanding position on global warming has
become unpalatable with increasing public awareness and political
momentum on climate change, so it has shifted its rhetoric and
revised its choice of words around the issue.
Don't the deniers have a right to free speech?
There's a difference between free speech and a campaign to deny
the climate science with the goal of undermining international
action on climate change. However, there's also responsibility
that goes with freedom of speech - which is based around honesty
and transparency. Freedom of speech does not apply to
misinformation and propaganda.
Debate is part of science, isn't it?
Real scientists always debate science - that is correct, its
part of the scientific process, testing hypotheses and introducing
new data and analysis. But the scientists named on ExxonSecrets
rarely publish peer reviewed scientific work.
In 2001, American communications consultant Frank Luntz, wrote a
long research memo to the Republicans advising them on the language
they should use when talking about climate change.
"The scientific debate remains open," he wrote , "Voters believe
that there is no consensus about global warming within the
scientific community. Should the public come to believe the
scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming
will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make
the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and
defer to scientists and other experts in the field"
Those scientists and experts recommended by Luntz have been
provided by the Washington think tanks funded by ExxonMobil along
with other oil, coal, electric utilities and car companies.
This is a similar campaign strategy to that adopted by the
Tobacco industry decades earlier. "Doubt is our product" was the
famous comment of one tobacco lobbyist to a US Senator. Indeed,
you'll find that some of the key deniers and organizations named on
ExxonSecrets were also paide by Big Tobacco to generate doubt about
the hazards of smoking.
But Exxon says it's just funding the groups to debate policy
issues because it doesn't like the Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol came about after rising scientific evidence
of the dangers of global warming and when Governments realized that
the voluntary UN Framework Convention on Climate Change wasn't
going to bring about the cuts in carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases needed to combat the problem. Essentially, the
Kyoto Protocol was driven by the urgency generated by the
It follows, therefore, that the Exxon-funded groups and deniers
have focused on challenging the science as the best way to
The now famous 1998 American Petroleum Institute memo, Global
Climate Science Communications Actions Plan, authored by Exxon, API
and several of the individuals and organizations that headline
ExxonSecrets, drew a bead on the importance of the debate on
science framing the moment in 1998:
"The advocates of global warming have been successful on the
basis of skillfully misrepresenting the science and the extent of
agreement on the science, while industry and its partners ceded the
science and fought on the economic issues. Yet if we can show that
science does not support the Kyoto treaty - which most true climate
scientists believe to be the case - this puts the United States in
a stronger moral position and frees its negotiators from the need
to make concessions as a defense against perceived selfish economic
Upon this tableau, the Global Climate Science Communications
Team (GCSCT) developed an action plan to inform the American public
that science does not support the precipitous actions Kyoto would
dictate, thereby providing a climate for the right policy decisions
to be made. The team considered results from a new public opinion
survey in developing the plan.
Charlton Research's survey of 1,100 "informed Americans"
suggests that while Americans currently perceive climate change to
be a great threat, public opinion is open enough to change on
climate science. When informed that "some scientists believe there
is not enough evidence to suggest that [what is called global
climate change] is a long-term change due to human behavior and
activities," 58 percent of those surveyed said they were more
likely to oppose the Kyoto treaty. Moreover, half the respondents
harbored doubts about climate science."
But hasn't Exxon dropped its funding of the deniers?
After consistent campaigning by Greenpeace through
ExxonSecrets, ExxonMobil was forced, in 2006, to drop funding to
some of its key allies in the campaign to deny climate science and
delay policy action The Competitive Enterprise Institute was the
key group dropped - it had received $2.2 million from ExxonMobil
since 1998, more than any other thinktank. But the relationship
continues as CEI's climate operatives continue to work closely with
the other think tanks funded by Exxon.
And ExxonMobil continues to fund many of the key groups,
including most of those involved in the 1998 API memo mentioned
A key question remains: if these groups had not done anything
that Exxon disagrees with, why has Exxon now decided to drop some
of them? The company has not answered this question.
More FAQs about Exxon and global warming policy are answered by
our allies at Exxpose