ExxonMobil officials may hem and haw when reporters ask them if the company still funds climate science denier organizations, but the numbers don’t lie.
The company says it acknowledges the reality of global warming and claims it supports a carbon tax, but its recently disclosed list of 2015 “public information and policy research” grantees shows it spent nearly $2 million last year on more than a dozen think tanks, advocacy groups and associations that dispute climate science and disparage renewable energy.
That’s significant from both a legal and political perspective.
There are legal implications because ExxonMobil is currently under investigation for allegedly misleading investors and the general public about climate risks. Its scientists, who were conducting cutting-edge climate research as far back as the 1970s, cautioned top management that continuing to burn vast quantities of fossil fuels could be catastrophic. Instead of heeding those warnings, the company stressed scientific uncertainty to protect its long-term profitability and bankrolled denier groups to spread disinformation.
Likewise, it is politically significant because, by sowing doubt about climate science and the potential of carbon-free energy sources, denier groups provide cover for elected officials to stand in the way of progress.