Exxon Changes its Tune

What a difference nine years makes!

For more than a decade, Exxon has been a major player in a campaign to spread doubt about global warming. We know this for a fact because a 1998 internal Exxon memo titled “Global Climate Science Communications: Action Plan” was leaked to the press. The stated goal of the plan, whose authors include Randy Randol of Exxon Corp, Sharon Kneiss of Chevron Corp, and Joseph Walker of the American Petroleum Institute, was to change the American public’s view that global warming was a threat so that policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions could be stopped. The memo laid out a wide range of strategies and tactics to achieve this goal, budgeting nearly $6 million plus the cost of advertising.

But suddenly Exxon has changed its tune.

On February 15, 2007, Exxon released the third in a series of op-ed pieces on “Addressing the risks of climate change “, which they now say “is an important issue facing our world today.” Exxon now accepts global warming as an undisputed fact!

Exxon goes on to recommend some reasonable general strategies:

  • Promote energy efficiency
  • Ensure wider deployment of existing emissions-reducing technologies
  • Support research and development of new technologies that can dramatically lower emissions while ensuring energy availability
  • Maintain support for climate research, to inform policy and the pace of response

Although their policy recommendations don’t go far enough, at least they’re in the right direction:

  • Promote global participation
  • Ensure a uniform/predictable cost of reducing carbon emissions
  • Maximize the use of markets, to aid rapid adoption of successful initiatives
  • Maximize transparency
  • Minimize complexity and administrative costs
  • Provide flexibility to adjust to ongoing understanding of the economic impact and evolving climate science

Has Exxon joined the fight for legislation to curb global warming, or is this just another PR campaign to divert attention from its true agenda? Time will tell. In this year’s Globie Awards, we nominated Exxon for “Worst Performance by a Corporation or Corporate Official”. Hopefully next year will be different.

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One Comment

  1. Beth Wellington
    Posted February 24, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    What is ED doing to provide good science materials to teachers and students?

    In “Science A la Joe Camel”, Laurie David writes of science teacher John Borowski and his frustration at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual conference besieged by glossy giveaways promoting science myths on a host of topics including global warming by corporations and trade groups, Exxon among them. The theory seems to be that you can influence policy for years if you influence the young. One API memo leaked to the press said, “”Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.”