A Prominent Anti-Exxon Crusader Unwittingly Undermined Her Own Movement

Chris White | Energy Reporter

One of the chief activists behind the climate crusade against Exxon Mobil appeared to unwittingly undercut one of the main arguments used to blame oil producers for global warming.

Virtually every level of the federal government during the early 1970s was aware of the man-made global warming, Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history at Harvard University, wrote in a tweet Wednesday. There’s only one problem: Her newfound position appears to conflict with her past assertion that Exxon hid knowledge about global warming for decades from the public.

“That is false! My students and I are working on a paper that shows this. Also, EPA didn’t yet exist! But it’s precursor agency knew, NAPCA, knew, Congress knew, the President knew…” she told her followers before tagging other notable climate activists who have contributed to reports targeting the oil industry.


She was referring to a tweet from Bloomberg reporter Rebecca Wilhelm, who told her followers in a post Oreskes retweeted that President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, doesn’t believe the EPA was ever designed specifically to address climate change.

Oreskes frequently argues that Exxon left the public in the dark about man-made global warming. She produced a report in August of 2017 accusing the Texas-based oil company of producing troves of research affirming the existence of global warming, while using advertorials to cast doubt on climate change.

Researcher later found that the advertorials cited in the report were predominantly from Mobil before the company merged with Exxon in 1999, meaning Oreskes and her colleague, Geoffrey Supran compared the research of one company with the advertorials of another. Both activist academics have gone on to play a major part in an investigation into Exxon.

The New York Times cited in May 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. Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York was at the forefront of the nearly two-year crusade to bring Exxon to heel.

Oreskes, for her part, denies that her Wednesday tweet contradicts her previous position. “Totally consistent,” she told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “A group of experts can know something, and another group can work to confuse the public about it.”

She added: “Indeed, if no one knew anything there’d be no motivation for a campaign of confusion.” (RELATED: NY Times Magazine Will Dedicate Its Entire Next Issue To Global Warming)

A recent report from New York Magazine tossed some cold water on the argument that Exxon knew about climate change before most of the public. The report was published in July and suggests that the public and government officials going back several decades were well-aware about the causes and effects of global warming.

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