Activists Manipulated Academic Research To Smear Exxon

REUTERS/Mike Stone

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Politico published a lengthy article Monday giving readers an inside look into the growing movement on the left to prosecute ExxonMobil for allegedly misleading the public on global warming.

It also exposes how activists pushed research in peer-reviewed journals trying blame individual companies for global warming in order to build their current legal case against Exxon.

Environmental activists who met at a conference in La Jolla, Calif., in 2012 pushed the idea of using “peer-reviewed research” to blame companies, like Exxon, for global warming.

So, activists who attended the conference went on to publish papers with a predetermined outcome in academic journals to further their political goals.

Politico reports:

First, they underscored the importance of building a catalogue of peer-reviewed research making the case that individual corporations could be held responsible for their contributions to climate change, a step that could serve as Exhibit A in future legal action. That tactic took a page from Exxon itself, which funded research after its 1989 Valdez spill arguing that Alaska’s Prince William Sound was already recovering from the damage.

Richard Heede, a climate researcher who helped organize the La Jolla conference, said the attendees realized the “value” of having credible peer-reviewed research.

Working with other academics like Naomi Oreskes, whose book “Merchants of Doubt” drew parallels between the climate and tobacco fights, Heede published articles in peer-reviewed journals that placed the responsibility for climate change at the feet of major fossil fuel companies. In a November 2013 study, for example, Heede estimated that 63 percent of worldwide emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane came from a group of 90 “carbon major” entities. (ExxonMobil was prominent in the list.) Environmental groups like Greenpeace immediately trumpeted the research.

“For a long time, fossil fuel companies have benefited from the idea that everyone is responsible for climate change — and if everyone is responsible, then nobody is responsible,” said Carroll Muffett, the president of the Center for International Environmental Law. “Now the science is moving into a much finer resolution.”

Many of the activists who quietly met in La Jolla in 2012 have also been backing investigations by liberal attorneys general into Exxon’s global warming stance. They’ve been working for years to make the case that Exxon, and others, can be sued for their contribution to global warming.

But in doing so, they seemed to have exposed a big flaw in the peer-review process — a flaw that’s been written about extensively in recent years.

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