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Context of 'April 1998: Oil and Gas Industry Representatives Draft Plan to Discredit Prevailing Opinion on Global Warming'

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ExxonMobil begins funding the Washington, DC-based organization Frontiers of Freedom. The organization, founded in 1996 by former Senator Malcolm Wallop to promote property rights and critique environmental regulations, will use ExxonMobil’s money to participate in an effort (see April 1998) to discredit the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures are being caused by the increase of greenhouse gases. One of the group’s staff members is Myron Ebell, an outspoken global warming skeptic. By 2005, ExxonMobil will have provided $857,000 in funds to Frontiers of Freedom. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file]

Entity Tags: ExxonMobil, Myron Ebell, Frontiers of Freedom

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Global Climate Science Team drafts a memo outlining a plan to invest millions of dollars in an effort to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol and discredit the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are causing the planet to warm. The draft plan, titled “Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan,” concedes that opposition to the protocol is not shared by the public. “There has been little, if any, public resistance or pressure applied to Congress to reject the treaty, except by those ‘inside the Beltway’ with vested interests,” it notes. A key component of the plan would be to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours on Congress, the media, and other key audiences.” To do this, they would “recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap the sun’s heat near Earth,” the New York Times reports. They would look to recruit scientists “who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate,” the memo says. According to the plan, “Victory will be achieved when… recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” One method the institute would employ to measure the plan’s progress would be to count the number of news reports that express uncertainty about the issue of global warming. People involved in devising the strategy included Jeffrey Salmon of the George C. Marshall Institute; Steven Milloy, who later becomes a FoxNews.com columnist; David Rothbard of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which has received $252,000 from ExxonMobil; Myron Ebell of Frontiers of Freedom, also funded with money ($612,000) from the oil giant; and ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol. Representatives of the Exxon Corporation, the Chevron Corporation, and the Southern Company, were also involved. [American Petroleum Institute, 4/1998; New York Times, 4/26/1998; Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Joe Walker, Steven Milloy, Royal Dutch/Shell, Southern Company, Jeffrey Salmon, Global Climate Science Team, American Petroleum Institute, Randy Randol, Myron Ebell, David Rothbard, ExxonMobil

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Larisa E. Dobriansky, deputy assistant secretary for national energy policy at the Department of Energy, meets with ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol and the Global Climate Coalition, a group formed to oppose restrictions on greenhouse gases. Members of the coalition include ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. In the notes she prepared for the meeting, she wrote, “POTUS [President Bush] rejected Kyoto, in part, based on input from you.” [Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Larisa E. Dobriansky, Global Climate Coalition, Randy Randol

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The US government’s Climate Change Science Program concludes in an annual report to Congress that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the only likely explanation for the rapid increase in global surface temperatures over the last three decades. It notes further that carbon dioxide and methane levels “have been increasing for about two centuries as a result of human activities and are now higher than they have been for over 400,000 years. Since 1750, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 30 percent and CH4 [Methane] concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 150 percent.” The report, accompanied by a letter signed by the secretaries of energy and commerce and Bush’s science adviser, represents a dramatic shift in the administration’s view on climate change. Two years prior, when the Environmental Protection Agency similarly concluded in a report (see May 2002) that global warming is the result of human activity, Bush had dismissed it as something “put out by the bureaucracy” (see June 4, 2002). Myron Ebell, of the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that is part of a campaign to discredit the consensus view that global warming is the result of human activity, says the report is “another indication that the administration continues to be incoherent in its global warming policies.” The report also acknowledges studies indicating that higher CO2 levels stimulate invasive weed growth more than it does crop growth. [Climate Change Science Program, 8/25/2004, pp. 79 pdf file; New York Times, 8/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Myron Ebell, Climate Change Science Program

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

A study surveying media coverage of global warming finds that, on average, news organizations give “roughly equal attention” to opposing views on the causes of climate change. In its effort to be fair and balanced, the media, in many cases, has treated the opinion of a handful of industry-paid scientists and free marketeers as being equal in value to the consensus view of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists. According to the authors, this has created the false impression that there is no prevailing scientific consensus on the causal factors of global warming. The authors—Maxwell T. Boykoff, a UCSC doctoral candidate in environmental studies and his brother, Jules M. Boykoff, a visiting assistant professor of politics at Whitman College—surveyed 636 stories published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal between 1988 and 2002. They found that 53 percent of these articles “gave roughly equal attention to the views that humans contribute to global warming and that climate change is exclusively the result of natural fluctuations.” The results of this study contrast starkly with those of another study which had surveyed 928 articles in peer-reviewed science journals. In that study, the percentage of articles expressing uncertainty about the cause of global warming was zero percent (see December 3, 2004-May 2005). The authors say this difference—between how the causes of global warming is described by the media and between how it is understood by the scientists—represents “a disconnect between scientific findings and public understanding.” “By giving equal time to opposing views, these newspapers significantly downplayed scientific understanding of the role humans play in global warming,” says Maxwell Boykoff. “We respect the need to represent multiple viewpoints, but when generally agreed-upon scientific findings are presented side-by-side with the viewpoints of a handful of skeptics, readers are poorly served. In this case, it contributed to public confusion and opened the door to political maneuvering.” The authors suggest that “disinformation” campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry (see April 1998) are to blame for the media’s inaccurate coverage. [Boykoff and Boykoff, 2004; Currents (UC Santa Cruz), 9/6/2004; Extra!, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Maxwell T. Boykoff, Jules M. Boykoff

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A number of individuals and organizations that have received funding from oil giant ExxonMobil attack the recently released Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (see November 8, 2004), which found that the Arctic is warming “at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world.” The report said that the unprecedented speed of melting in the Arctic is an indication that the climate is undergoing drastic, possibly irreversible, changes that could result in the extinction of numerous species, cause major changes in regional ecosystems, and undermine the livelihood of circumpolar indigenous populations. One of the first attacks on the report is from FoxNews.com columnist Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute ($75,000 from ExxonMobil). Milloy operates two ExxonMobil-funded organizations—the Advancement of Sound Science Center ($40,000 from ExxonMobil) and the Free Enterprise Action Institute ($50,000 from ExxonMobil)—both of which are registered to his home address in Potomac, Maryland. In his article, titled “Polar Bear Scare on Thin Ice,” he claims that one of the graphs in the study’s 149-page overview report contradicts the study’s conclusions. Harvard biological oceanographer James McCarthy, a lead author of the report, tells Mother Jones that the conclusions are solid. “In order to take that position, you have to refute what are hundreds of scientific papers that reconstruct various pieces of this climate puzzle,” he says. The overview report is a mere summary of a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced, report, that underwent a rigorous peer-review process before publication. It was based on the work of more than 300 scientists and took four years to complete. Another ExxonMobil-funded group, the George C. Marshall Institute ($310,000 from ExxonMobil), also chimes in, issuing a press release that says the Arctic report was based on “unvalidated climate models and scenarios… that bear little resemblance to reality and how the future is likely to evolve.” Then, on the same day the Senate holds a hearing about the report’s findings, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) releases a statement claiming “The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, despite its recent release, has already generated analysis pointing out numerous flaws and distortions.” CEI has received $1,350,000 from ExxonMobil (see May 2005). The Fraser Institute of Vancouver, the recipient of $60,000 from the oil company, claims that “2004 has been one of the cooler years in recent history,” a statement that is contradicted a month later by no one less than the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization. It will report that 2004 was “the fourth warmest year in the temperature record since 1861.” [Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Fraser Institute of Vancouver, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Steven Milloy, George C. Marshall Institute

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Science magazine publishes a study by science historian Naomi Oreskes describing how a review of “928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords ‘climate change’” failed to turn up even one study explicitly challenging the consensus opinion that global warming has anthropogenic causes. [Science Magazine, 12/3/2004] Her findings are disputed by Dr. Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who says that his own review of the abstracts from the ISI database found that only one-third implicitly backed the consensus view, and explicitly, only one percent. He tries to get his findings published in Science, but the magazine does not accept it. [Daily Telegraph, 1/5/2005] Peiser later sends 34 abstracts, which he insists challenge the consensus view, to Tim Lambert, a computer scientist who blogs on environmental issues. Lambert and his readers note that only a few of the abstracts actually appear to question anthropogenic global warming. They also note that the authors who do dispute global warming have backgrounds—such as petroleum geology, and energy and power engineering—that are typically sympathetic to the views of industry. [Lambert, 5/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Naomi Oreskes, Tim Lambert, Benny Peiser

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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