Over 100 scientists urge a Science association to reject Exxon sponsorship

From ToxicLeaks

After the smashing revelations that Exxon has known about the truth of climate change for decades and still funded climate deniers, scientists have asked the American Geophysical Union (AGU), one of the United States' leading scientifique association, to sever ties with Exxon and stop contributing to the greenwashing strategy of one of the world's most terrible environmental criminal.

A group of scientists are asking the AGU to end its ties with Exxon[edit | edit source]

On february 22, a group of America's leading scientists have written a letter to the president of the AGU, Margaret Leisen, asking her to bring an end to Exxon's sponsorship. Indeed Exxon has been a sponsor of the AGU annual fall meeting for many years. This event brings several thousand member of the AGU together and relies on private sponsors for funding. And Exxon has been a very generous sponsor. In 2013, Exxon was one of the meeting's main sponsors, followed by other “benefactors” such as BP or Chevron. This sponsorship has made scientists feel uneasy for years. After all, these companies have been openly hostile to the scientific consensus on climate change and have fought every attempt to build policies that could mitigate it.

But the recent revelations on Exxon's knowledge of climate change since the beginning of the 1980's and its vicious attempts to fuel misinformation on that issue have driven scientists to declare war against the corporation. Ben Scandella, PhD candidate at MIT, is one of the three authors of the letter, he states its purpose quite frankly : “Our intention is to help rebut the climate misinformation that has been put out, especially by ExxonMobil, by asking the AGU to reject sponsorship from Exxon for its conferences”. His letter was quickly signed by prominent scientists such as James Hansen who was the one to present to Congress the scientific findings about climate change in 1988. It's clear that to Hansen, a company that has spent decades and millions of dollars to undermine the scientific consensus that he has helped build should have no relations with scientists whatsoever. More than 100 scientists, including 70 members of the AGU, have signed the letter to express that Exxon's sponsorship has become incompatible with the values of the AGU.

A sponsorship contrary to the AGU's values[edit | edit source]

The authors and the signatories have launched this campaign because they believe that the conduct Exxon has had on the topic of climate change is just impossible to reconcile with the values of the AGU. The science association has been a key player in the discovery of climate change and the communication of scientific findings to the public. As a body of scientists, it is attached to the truth. This made was clear by a new policy implemented in the summer of 2015. It states that the AGU will “not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.”

According to Peter Frumhoff, another signatory of the letter, director at the Union of Concerned Scientists : “Exxon’s track record, with respect to climate science, is long and troubling and entirely inconsistent with [the AGU’s] policy and the society’s climate statement, which is clear and unequivocal about supporting deep reductions in emissions”. Margaret Leinen, President of AGU has responded that the relationship between the association and Exxon would be subjected to a debate within the Board. But she also highlighted that : “ExxonMobil’s current public statements and activities were not inconsistent with AGU’s positions and the scientific consensus.”

However, many scientists, like Scandella, contend that official statements are not enough to assess Exxon's policy towards climate change : “If you’re looking at public statements, it’s hard to find because they are funneling their misinformation campaigns through dark money organizations”. Indeed, Exxon is lying when it says that it’s not funding denier groups, for instance, it is still supporting Alec, an organization that criticizes some aspects of climate change science and that fights energy transition policies. To these scientists, it's quite clear, Exxon has lied consistently, even though it knew the truth all along, and has conspired to keep humankind in the dark about this global risk just to preserve its profit margin. That company can't be allowed to use the AGU to improve its image.

A letter to stop Exxon's greenwashing[edit | edit source]

The scientists don't want Exxon to take credit for supporting the annual meeting of the AGU, when at the same time, the corporation spends millions of dollars fighting the values of the AGU and science in general ! This is a typical case of “greenwashing”. Exxon plans on spending a little cash on this event, but actually the added credibility will help the company have more power to prevent or stall policies that could severely affect its profits.

“The letter isn’t about saying that Exxon scientists or Exxon-funded scientists have no place in society. The letter is about saying we shouldn’t be advertising Exxon as a good corporate citizen by accepting their funding when their behavior is so unequivocally inconsistent with scientific integrity and our commitment to address climate change,” stated Peter Frumhoff. It does seem galling that bloated corporations like Exxon should improve their image by funding scientific events and then use that improved image to fight the policies that stem from the scientific works they claim to support !