WASHINGTON: On the same day that Democratic leaders of the new 110th Congress promised tough hearings on global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report claiming ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2005 conducted a $16-million "disinformation campaign" on global warming science using tactics borrowed from the tobacco industry.
The January 3 report - "Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco's Tactics to ‘Manufacture Uncertainty' on Climate Change" - claims the energy company funded research by the George C. Marshall Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEA), and other, lesser-known public policy groups that was designed to sow doubt about the origins of global warming; funded "climate-change deniers" in Congress; and helped persuade the Bush administration to appoint to key environmental regulatory and advisory roles people with similar, contrarian views.
Regarding the disinformation tactics, the UCS report's author, Seth Shulman, a former correspondent for the British journal Nature and a monthly columnist for MIT's Technology Review magazine, said that despite ExxonMobil's claims of supporting a variety of research, it typically has funded non-peer-reviewed research by scientists who argue that global warming either is not proven or could be caused by factors outside the control of man.
"By funding these 43 groups, ExxonMobil has amplified the voices of these people," said Shulman, who compared this research to tobacco industry research questioning the link between smoking and health problems. "It's all over the Web and gets into journalists' articles, creating an ‘echo chamber' effect. Doubt is a cheap and easy thing to sell."
ExxonMobil in a statement said the report - which was covered by ABC News, the Associated Press, and a number of major newspapers - was "deeply offensive and wrong," that the company recognizes that the use of fossil fuels can lead to global warming, and that the company supports a "fairly broad range" of research organizations, none of whose views it controls or necessarily agrees with. The Marshall Institute and the CEA also issued statements disputing the report.
As a follow-on step to the release of the report, available at http://www.ucsusa.org/, the UCS said it is urging its members to write to their members of Congress in opposition to oil and gas subsidies and support of legislation related to alternative energy sources. Both the new Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and the new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) have promised to hold hearings on global warming.