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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 helps create the Global Climate Science Team (GCST), a small task force that is charged with discrediting the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are warming the planet. Members of the task force include ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist, Randy Randol; the American Petroleum Institute’s public relations representative, Joe Walker; and Steven Milloy, who heads a nonprofit organization called the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. [American Petroleum Institute, 4/1998; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file] Milloy’s organization had been secretly formed in 1993 by tobacco giant Philip Morris with the goal of creating uncertainty about the health hazards posed by secondhand smoke. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joe Walker, Randy Randol, Steven Milloy, Global Climate Science Team, ExxonMobil

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

President George Bush appoints Philip A. Cooney as the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which helps create and promote administration policies on environmental issues. In that position, he also serves as the Bush’s “climate team leader.” Cooney, a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in economics, was formerly a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. He has no background in science. [New York Times, 6/8/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Philip A. Cooney

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

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

Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), sends an email to Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, discussing how to respond to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) that acknowledged human activity is contributing to global warming. It was the first time the US government had ever made the admission. In the email, Ebell conveys his plan to discredit the report by suing the agency. He also recommends playing down the report and firing some EPA officials. “It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible,” he says in the email. “Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired.… It seems to me our only leverage to push you in the right direction is to drive a wedge between the president and those in the administration who think that they are serving the president’s interests by publishing this rubbish.” The organization Ebell represents has received more than $1 million since 1998 from Exxon. Cooney previously worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (see 2001). [Ebell, 6/3/2002; Greenpeace, 9/9/2003; Observer, 9/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Myron Ebell

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 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

According to a study done by Britain’s Royal Society, in 2005, ExxonMobil provides $2.9 million in funding to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent climate change. Such groups include the International Policy Network, George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. [Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]

Entity Tags: International Policy Network, ExxonMobil, Royal Society, George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

In a meeting with the Royal Society, ExxonMobil executives say the company will end its funding of groups that misrepresent the science of climate change. [Royal Society, 9/4/2006 pdf file; Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]

Entity Tags: ExxonMobil, Royal Society

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Britain’s top scientific body, the 1,400-member Royal Society, demands in a letter to ExxonMobil that it end its support for groups that spread misinformation about global warming. In 2005, the company gave 39 such groups a total of $2.9 million (see 2005). The letter accuses the oil giant of having “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence.” According to the Society, the company’s statements on the issue have been “inaccurate and misleading.” In particular, the letter strongly criticises the company’s “corporate citizenship reports,” which insist that “gaps in the scientific basis” undermine arguments that climate change is anthropogenic. The letter states that there is a “false sense somehow that there is a two-sided debate going on in the scientific community” concerning the causes of climate change. While “thousands and thousands” of international scientists agree that climate change is linked to greenhouse gases, ExxonMobil’s assertions rely on the views of just “one or two professional contrarians.” In response, ExxonMobil says the letter “inaccurately and unfairly described [the] company” and adds that it stopped funding one such group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, earlier in the year. [Royal Society, 9/4/2006 pdf file; Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Competitive Enterprise Institute, ExxonMobil, Royal Society

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record


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