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Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air

August 30, 2019

- ExxonMobil largest publicly traded corporation at $339 billion

- company vehemently opposes any governmental regulation that would require significantly expanded investments in clean energy technologies or reductions in global warming emissions

- spent millions to confuse and deceive public about the truth of global warming — underwritten most sophisticated and successful disinformation campaign since Big Tobacco misled the public about incontrovertible scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease

- ExxonMobil is most profitable corporation in history

2005 company netted $36 billion, nearly $100 million in profit each day

- 138 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2004 and roughly same levels of emissions in 2005 from just company operations

- Gasoline, heating oil, kerosene, diesel products, aviation fuels, and heavy fuels resulted in 1,047 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions

if ExxonMobile was a country, it’d rank 6th in emissions after US, China, Russia, Japan, India

- Tools the fossil fuel (ExxonMobil mainly) industry uses are very similar to the tools Big Tobacco used to confuse the public about the health problems smoking caused

manufacture uncertainty: raising doubts

information laundering: used/created seemingly independent front organizations to make industry’s case and confuse public

promoted scientific spokespeople: invested in scientific research to show legitimacy to their PR e orts

recast the debate: saying evidence found my legitimate science was not actually based on “sound science”

cultivated close ties with government o cials: enormous leverage because of size and power

- They don’t have to prove anything is safe, they just have to “maintain doubt” on the scientific front

- 1989 Global Climate Coalition was formed (twice chaired by former CEO of ExxonMobile Lee Raymond)

responded aggressively to emerging scientific studies about global warming by opposing governmental action designed to address the problem, emphasized remaining uncertainties about climate change

- Kyoto Protocol (1997) majority of world’s industrialized nations committed to begin reducing they global warming emissions on specified timetable

- 1998 ExxonMobile helped create small task force “Global Climate Science Team” (GCST)

invest millions to manufacture uncertainty

- By late 1990s scientific evidence on global warming was so strong it became di cult to find scientists who disputed the reality of human-caused climate change

- Several articles for the Marshall Institute came out positing that solar activity might actually be responsible for global warming

- ExxonMobil created fake letters and claimed that petitions were signed by over 17,000 scientists but when a random search was done only about 1% of those scientists actually held a Ph.D. in a climate science related field

NAS (National Academy of Sciences) issued a statement disavowing Frederick Seitz’s petition and disassociating the academy from the formatted paper - Frederick Seitz was a big player with Big Tobacco disinformation campaign and came out of retirement to help the climate change disinformation campaign

- ExxonMobil is emulating a proven corporate strategy for successfully deflecting attention when one’s cause lacks credible scientific evidence with “sound science”