British Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial
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Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.
In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence."
The scientists also strongly criticize the company's public statements on global warming, which they describe as "inaccurate and misleading."
In a letter earlier this month to Esso, the UK arm of ExxonMobil, the Royal Society cites its own survey which found that ExxonMobil last year distributed $2.9 million to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent the science of climate change.
These include the International Policy Network, a think tank with its headquarters in London, and the George C. Marshall Institute, which is based in Washington, DC. In 2004, the Marshall Institute jointly published a report with the UK group the Scientific Alliance which claimed that global temperature rises were not related to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
In the letter, Bob Ward of the Royal Society writes: "At our meeting in July... you indicated that ExxonMobil would not be providing any further funding to these organizations. I would be grateful if you could let me know when ExxonMobil plans to carry out this pledge."
The letter adds: "I would be grateful if you could let me know which organizations in the UK and other European countries have been receiving funding so that I can work out which of these have been similarly providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public."
This is the first time the society has written to a company to challenge its activities. The move reflects mounting concern about the activities of lobby groups that try to undermine the overwhelming scientific evidence that emissions are linked to climate change.
The groups, such as the US Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose senior figures have described global warming as a myth, are expected to launch a renewed campaign ahead of a major new climate change report. The CEI responded to the recent release of Al Gore's climate change film, "An Inconvenient Truth," with advertisements that welcomed increased carbon dioxide pollution.
Ward said: "It is now more crucial than ever that we have a debate which is properly informed by the science. For people to be still producing information that misleads people about climate change is unhelpful. The next IPCC report should give people the final push that they need to take action and we can't have people trying to undermine it."
The Royal Society letter also takes issue with ExxonMobil's own presentation of climate science. It strongly criticizes the company's "corporate citizenship reports," which claim that "gaps in the scientific basis" make it very difficult to blame climate change on human activity. The letter says: "These statements are not consistent with the scientific literature. It is very difficult to reconcile the misrepresentations of climate change science in these documents with ExxonMobil's claim to be an industry leader."
ExxonMobil said: "We can confirm that recently we received a letter from the Royal Society on the topic of climate change. Amongst other topics our 'Tomorrow's Energy and Corporate Citizenship' reports explain our views openly and honestly on climate change. We would refute any suggestion that our reports are inaccurate or misleading." A spokesperson added that ExxonMobil stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute this year.
Recent research has made scientists more confident that the current warming is man-made, a finding endorsed by scientific academies across the world, including in the US, China and Brazil.
The Royal Society's move emerged as Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey, warned that the polar ice caps were breaking up at a faster rate than glaciologists thought possible, with profound consequences for global sea levels.
Professor Rapley said the change was almost certainly down to global warming. "It's like opening a window and seeing what's going on and the message is that it's worse than we thought," he said.
Sources: Guardian (UK)