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Context of 'April 2003: White House Plans To Use Heavily Criticized Paper to Counter Global Warming Arguments'

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ExxonMobil disperses roughly $16 million to organizations that are challenging the scientific consensus view that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. For many of the organizations, ExxonMobil is their single largest corporate donor, often providing more than 10 percent of their annual budgets. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists will find that “[v]irtually all of them publish and publicize the work of a nearly identical group of spokespeople, including scientists who misrepresent peer-reviewed climate findings and confuse the public’s understanding of global warming. Most of these organizations also include these same individuals as board members or scientific advisers.” After the Bush administration withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol (see March 27, 2001), the oil company steps up its support for these organizations. Some of the ExxonMobil-funded groups tell the New York Times that the increase is a response to the rising level of public interest in the issue. “Firefighters’ budgets go up when fires go up,” explains Fred L. Smith, head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Explaining ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations, company spokesman Tom Cirigliano says: “We want to support organizations that are trying to broaden the debate on an issue that is so important to all of us. There is this whole issue that no one should question the science of global climate change. That is ludicrous. That’s the kind of dark-ages thinking that gets you in a lot of trouble.” [New York Times, 5/28/2003; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 10-11 pdf file] The following is a list of some of the organizations funded by ExxonMobil:
bullet American Enterprise Institute (AEI) - AEI receives $1,625,000 from ExxonMobil between and 1998 and 2005. During this period, it plays host to a number of climate contrarians. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 31 pdf file]
bullet American Legislative Exchange Council - In 2005, ExxonMobil grants $241,500 to this organization. Its website features a non-peer-reviewed paper by climate contrarian Patrick Michaels. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12, 31 pdf file]
bullet Center for Science and Public Policy - Started at the beginning of 2003, this one-man operation receives $232,000 from ExxonMobil. The organization helps bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. [New York Times, 5/28/2003]
bullet Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow - Between 2004 and 2005, this organization receives $215,000 from ExxonMobil. Its advisory panel includes Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Roger Bate, Sherwood Idso, Patrick Michaels, and Frederick Seitz, all of whom are affiliated with other ExxonMobil-funded organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) - Founded in 1984 to fight government regulation on business, CEI started receiving large grants from ExxonMobil after Myron Ebell moved there from Frontiers of Freedom in 1999. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file] CEI, along with another ExxonMobil-supported enterprise, the Cooler Heads Coalition, runs the website GlobalWarming.Org, which is part of an effort to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” Between 2000 and 2003, the CEI receives $1,380,000, or 16 percent of the total funds donated by Exxon during that period. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; Mother Jones, 5/2005]
bullet Frontiers of Freedom - The organization receives $230,000 from Exxon in 2002 and $40,000 in 2001. It has an annual budge of about $700,000. [New York Times, 5/28/2003]
bullet George C. Marshall Institute - The institute is known primarily for its work advocating a “Star Wars” missile defense program. Between 1998 and 2005, Exxon-Mobil grants $630,000 to the Marshall Institute primarily to underwrite the institute’s climate change effort. William O’Keefe, the organization’s CEO, once worked as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Petroleum Institute. He has also served on the board of directors of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another global warming skeptic organization, and is chairman emeritus of the Global Climate Coalition. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet Heartland Institute - In 2005, this organization receives $119,000 from ExxonMobil. Its website offers articles by the same scientists promoted by other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet Tech Central Station - TCS is a web-based organization that provides news, commentary, and analysis focusing on the societal tensions and strains that are concomitant with historical change. TCS proclaims itself as a strong believer of the “material power of free markets, open societies, and individual human ingenuity to raise living standards and improve lives.” Until 2006, the website is operated by a public relations firm called the DCI Group, which is a registered ExxonMobil lobbying firm. In 2003 TCS receives $95,000 from ExxonMobil to be used for “climate change support.” TCS contributors on the global warming issue include the same group of people that is promoted by several of the other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 13 pdf file] In 2006, TCS will pay the public relations firm Medialink Worldwide to produce a video news release that challenges the view that global warming has increased the intensity of hurricanes. The piece is later shown on a Mississippi television station and presented as a regular news report (see June 2006).

Entity Tags: Tech Central Station, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, American Legislative Exchange Council, Heartland Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Center for Science and Public Policy, Fred L. Smith, ExxonMobil

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A review article by scientists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas on global warming is published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Research. In their article, the two astrophysicists review the work of several scientists and argue that the twentieth century was not the warmest century during the last 1,000 years. [Soon and Baliunas, 2003] Their article is promoted widely by organizations and individuals funded by ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005) [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 14 pdf file] as well as by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who says the paper is proof that natural variability, not human activity, is the “overwhelming factor” influencing climate change. [US Congress, 7/28/2003] But after the paper is published, three of journal’s editors—including incoming editor-in-chief Hans von Storch—quit in protest. Storch, explaining his resignation, calls the paper “flawed” because “the conclusions are not supported by the evidence presented in the paper.” He adds that he suspects “some of the skeptics had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/5/2003] Additionally, 13 of the scientists cited in the paper publish a rebuttal saying that Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research in the paper. [Ammann et al., 2003 pdf file; American Geophysical Union, 7/7/2003]

Entity Tags: Hans von Storch, Sallie Baliunas, James M. Inhofe, Willie Soon

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Philip Cooney, chief of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), informs White House staffer Kevin O’Donovan in a memo that the CEQ will begin using a study by Willie Soon and Sally Baliunas (see January 31, 2003) to rebut studies that suggest the planet is warming. Cooney also says that he has inserted a reference to this paper in the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file] (The Soon-Baliunas paper has been heavily criticized. After the paper was published in Climate Research, several of the journal’s editors resigned in protest, and scientists whose papers had been cited in the study complained that their research had been misrepresented; see June 23, 2003.)

Entity Tags: Kevin O’Donovan, Philip A. Cooney

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

White House CEQ Chairman James Connaughton writes an email requesting that he be kept abreast of all changes made to the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment.” The White House opposes much of the language in the section on climate change and its efforts to make changes to that section will eventually cause the EPA to remove the section entirely (see June 23, 2003). [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: James L. Connaughton

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

EPA staffers write in a confidential memo that due to White House tinkering (see April 2003) with the agency’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) the report “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Council on Environmental Quality

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

In an internal EPA memo, agency staff describe three different courses of action the EPA administrator can take in dealing with the changes that the White House has made to the forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003). Over the last several weeks, White House officials have made so many changes (see April 2003) to the climate change section of the report that scientists no longer believe the section accurately depicts the scientific consensus on the issue (see April 29, 2003). The first option suggested in the memo is that the EPA administrator could accept the edits made by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. The memo notes that this would be the “easiest” road to take, but warns that the “EPA will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental community for poorly representing the science.” The altered report “provides specific text to attack,” the memo adds. According to the memo, the White House edits “undercut” the conclusions of the National Research Council (see June 2001) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see October 1, 2001). Alternatively, the memo suggests, the EPA administrator could opt to cut the entire climate change section from the report. The last option discussed in the memo is that the EPA administrator could stand firm against the White House’s “no further changes” edict and attempt to reach a compromise. While EPA staff seem to prefer this approach, believing that this is the “only approach that could produce a credible climate change section,” they caution that confronting the White House could “antagonize” officials and that “it is likely not feasible to negotiate agreeable text.” The EPA will ultimately choose to remove the climate section completely from the report. [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The EPA inspector-general launches an inquiry seeking to determine “whether the agency is deliberately misleading the public by overstating the purity of the nation’s drinking water.” The inspector general is concerned that data collected by states from their utilities—which serves as the basis for EPA assessments on national water quality—is flawed due to significant underreporting of violations. According to EPA officials and internal agency documents, states may be underreporting violations by as much as 50 percent. Notwithstanding these concerns, the EPA will release its unprecedented “Draft Report on the Environment” five days later (see June 23, 2003). The heavily criticized document will claim that in 2002, “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But internal documents dating back to March suggest the figure is closer to the 75 percent to 84 percent range. [Washington Post, 8/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer, and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency’s administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2003; New York Times, 6/19/2003] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, the Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents… show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed (see June 2003) from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House (see April 2003). [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA’s report also leaves out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina, US Environmental Record, Global Warming


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