Exxon continued to fund climate denial in 2009

by Kert Davies

July 19, 2010

ExxonMobil gave approximately $1.3 million to climate denial organizations last year.

This has been reported by The Times (London) after being provided information by the Greenpeace Research Department.  (The Times is unfortunately a subscription-only paper online, but a version of the story can be found syndicated at The Australian).

Greenpeace tabulated this figure – as we have done every year – from Exxon’s annual corporate Worldwide Giving Report. This year’s Giving Report was way late on arrival, only published online in late June rather than the customary delivery in May before Exxon’s annual general shareholders meeting. Download pdf of Worldwide Giving Report here

The Times concluded that Exxon had broken its pledges dating back to 2005 to stop payments to climate change deniers. After significant pressure from numerous bodies including ExxonSecrets, the Royal Society of London and Senators Snowe and Rockefeller, Exxon admitted its campaign of diversion.

In its 2007 Corporate Citizenship Report, published in May 2008, the oil giant stated,

“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 a responsible manner.”

And indeed, over the past four years, Exxon has reduced its grants to prominent climate change deniers from the peak spending in 2005 of over $3.5M. Greenpeace’s research shows a $2.2 million reduction in annual funding to these organizations, down to roughly $1.3 million in 2009.  The number of groups known to be funded has dropped from 51 to 24 between 2005 and 2009. 

So they are down to about half the organizations and about one third of the funding.  But is that good enough?  Does this mean Exxon gets credit for finally ditching the deniers?

Clearly not. 

In 2009, Exxon was still giving significant contributions to organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the Annapolis Center, the American Enterprise Institute, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Harvard- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Washington Legal Foundation, each of which has a long history of climate change denial. (see complete list of 2009 funding below).

Exxon has told The Times that it is no longer funding Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute and the Media Research Center, the former nest of Marc Morano (ex- Sen. Inhofe staffer and now CFACT blogger)

 The 2009 funding to these groups was:

We’ll report on the veracity of that statement NEXT year when Exxon publishes this year’s funding.

Exxon drops denial groups, but picks up denier scientists instead

Importantly, during the same period where Exxon bent to the pressure on its campaign of denial and cut all funding to hard core deniers like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and others…

Exxon began funding (at least publicly) the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in 2005. 

The 2009 ExxonMobil funding to SAO was $ 76,106, for a grand and odd total of $417,212 since 2005.  SAO is the home of Dr. Willie Soon and Dr. Sallie Baliunas, two scientists who have worked both together and as individuals on publishing junk science for nearly two decades.  Both have been heavily involved with many of the groups running denier campaigns today. 

For example, Soon and Baliunas’ article “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years,” concluded (incorrectly) that the warming of the globe experienced today is not at all unique and that the twentieth century is not the warmest on record, contradicting well established science. This paper was partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute.  The flawed peer review process that led to its publication caused several editors at Climate Research (where it was published) to resign.

In 2007, just ahead of a crucial decision by the US Federal Government about whether to list polar bears as "endangered" from climate change, Soon was funded by ExxonMobil for his work in a paper that argued that polar bears were not under threat (because climate change wasn’t happening).  Soon is an expert in astrophysics, not polar bears, but Exxon saw fit to fund this work. 

Baliunas has individually authored a 1994 report entitled “The Ozone Crisis,” claiming that science denies CFC’s affect on the ozone. She has been a resident expert at the George C Marshall Institute for years, alongside other serial deniers such as S Fred Singer. 

So much more is detailed in our "Dealing in Doubt" report. It is a campaign of denial that goes back some 20 years.  It continues to this day as the stakes get higher and higher.  2010, so far, has set global records for high temperatures.   Corporate and private funders of the organizations who continue to deal in misinformation about climate science and climate policy will someday be held accountable for their destructive actions.

24 organizations in ExxonSecrets database were funded in 2009:

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