Four days after the press reported that he was about to cut climate-altering carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, George W. Bush caved in to the Neanderthal wing of the fossil fuel lobby--the coal industry and ExxonMobil--and reversed himself. In reneging on his campaign pledge, Bush thumbed his nose at Holland, Germany and Britain, which are planning to cut carbon emissions by 50 to 80 percent over the next fifty years, as well as EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who had voiced support for carbon regulation.
By calling the science "still incomplete," Bush also lent new credibility to the tiny handful of industry-sponsored "greenhouse skeptics" who have been thoroughly discredited by the mainstream community of climate researchers--including the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Academy of Sciences and other blue-ribbon scientific groups that deem global warming to be real, immediate and ominous.
For most of the 1990s, Western Fuels, a $400 million coal industry propaganda outlet, funded the most visible of the greenhouse skeptics. Now ExxonMobil--the only major oil company to deny the reality of climate change--has joined the coal industry to finance the skeptics, confuse the public and undermine the work of 2,000 scientists from 100 countries on the IPCC.
The most widely quoted skeptic, S. Fred Singer, denied receiving oil industry money in a February letter to the Washington Post. But in 1998 ExxonMobil gave $10,000 to Singer's institute, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and $65,000 to the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which shared building space with SEPP. Says Atlas's website, "For those who believe public policy should be based on sound science, Dr. Singer offers a wealth of information, credibility and encouragement."
Singer's denial of oil funding is only the most recent of his many fabrications. In 1997 he declared that Dr. Bert Bolin, then chairman of the IPCC, had changed his position on climate change and denied a connection between global warming and extreme weather, accusations that Bolin called "inaccurate and misleading." While he touts himself as an accomplished scientist, Singer has been unable to publish in the peer-reviewed literature for at least fifteen years, other than one technical comment, according to Congressional testimony.
ExxonMobil states candidly that it "provides support to selected organizations that assess public policy alternatives on issues with direct bearing on the company's business operations and interests." Many of the ExxonMobil grants are relatively small. But given the company's size and reputation, they are useful in leveraging other grants. For example, the company supports the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, staffed by Sherwood Idso, a longtime coal-sponsored global warming skeptic, and two relatives, Keith and Craig Idso. In 1998 ExxonMobil gave $15,000 to the Cato Institute's Environment and Natural Resources program, which boasts coal-sponsored skeptic Patrick Michaels as its senior fellow. Michaels's "statements on [climate models] are a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation," says Dr. Tom Wigley, a leading climate modeler at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. And ExxonMobil bankrolls the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, which published The Heated Debate, a book by greenhouse skeptic Dr. Robert Balling.
ExxonMobil has isolated itself from the community of major oil companies in the area of climate. British Petroleum is now the world's largest producer of solar energy systems, Shell created a $500 million renewable energy company and Texaco has invested substantial resources in hydrogen-powered fuel cells.
Around the world, glaciers are melting, oceans are heating up and infectious diseases are migrating. The buildup of our coal and oil emissions has triggered a wave of violent and chaotic weather. All this has resulted from one degree of warming. During this century, the temperature will rise by up to 10 degrees, according to the IPCC. It's time for journalists to stop quoting Singer and the other global warming skeptics. They might as well go straight to the ExxonMobil public information office for comment.