Academics Omitted Key Evidence In Study Showing Exxon Misled Public On Climate Change
Climate researchers excluded crucial pieces of data while conducting a study that would eventually show ExxonMobil allegedly denied or sowed doubt about the science behind global warming.
A Harvard report conducted in August accused the oil company of producing troves of research affirming the existence of global warming, while using advertorials to cast doubt on climate change. But researchers at Energy In Depth (EID) splashed cold water Wednesday night on the researcher’s conclusions.
EID’s Spencer Walrath reviewed the advertorials, which appeared in The New York Times throughout the 1990s, and found that more than 90 percent of them acknowledge that climate change was caused in part by human action. The group’s review also revealed that the Harvard report inappropriately compared Exxon-generated climate research with advertorials from another, separate, company.
Walrath, whose research group lobbies on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, found that the advertorials cited in the report were predominantly from Mobil before the company merged with Exxon in 1999, meaning the researchers – Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes — compared the research of one company with the advertorials of another.
Both Oreskes and Supran have a long history of supporting an attorney general-led crusade against Exxon. TheNYT cited in May of 2016 that Oreskes was one of the original architects of the anti-Exxon campaign, which officially kicked-off during a climate conference in California in 2012.
They relied on 36 advertorials published between 1989 and 2004, according to EID’s review. The group then went on to point out that ExxonMobil was formed in late 1999, nearly a decade after the first advertorial was published. Only 11 of the 36 advertorials belonged to ExxonMobil, while the other 25 were exclusively published before the merger.
Neither author has responded to reporter’s request for comment about the veracity of EID’s review of their research. The Daily Caller News Foundation will update this article once Oreskes weighs in on the group’s claims.
Her sample of advertorials ended in 2004, EID noted, because Oreskes relied on Greenpeace data created in 2015 that only includes advertorials through 2004. The group argues that the lack of reliable data ultimately led the Harvard researcher to make unreliable conclusions
EID notes further that Oreskes also inappropriately conflated Exxon’s position on global warming with the company’s criticism of climate policy, particularly the Kyoto climate agreement in the late-1990s.
One Exxon advertorial, for instance, states that “the growing recognition that most governments cannot meet the politically chosen [Kyoto] targets without resorting to economy-wrecking measures.” Oreskes marked that statement as expressing doubt of man-made global warming.
“Here, the researchers show that they have confused climate denial and opposition to a specific climate policy,” Walrath wrote in the review. Congress unanimously voted down the mandatory climate deal that would have forced nations to drastically reduce greenhouse gas levels.
Oreskes’s research is part of a wider investigation against the company. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, for instance, spent more than a year probing the oil company based on claims that Exxon downplayed for decades the severity of global warming to investors.
Much of the Democrat’s probe was based on reports from liberal-leaning media outlets InsideClimate News, which alleged in a report last year that Exxon has spent decades shelving evidence of climate change. The Los Angeles Times was also involved in the reports.
Federal regulators have criticized Susanne Rust in the past for the researcher’s decision to allow her environmental activism to dictate her research on the oil company. Rust, who lead the anti-Exxon research at Columbia, has been responsible in recent years for research generating fear about other scientific developments.
Recent stumbles and missteps have caused Schneiderman to shift the focus of his probe. The crusading lawyer’s most recent change, which focuses on documents he believes shows the company used internal numbers to dupe the public, prompted the Washington Post to report June 5 that Schneiderman has meandered far off course from his original investigation.
Exxon, for its part, has described Schneiderman’s investigation as a type of conspiracy theory drummed up for the purposes of gaining media exposure for future political gains. The probe is now merely speculation into Exxon’s financial dealings.
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