Climate Denial: Big Oil’s Multimillion Dollar Disinformation Campaign

The Climate Deception Dossiers

On July 9, 2015, the Union of Concerned Scientists released The Climate Deception Dossiers – collections of internal company and trade association documents revealing a three decade campaign by the world’s largest fossil fuel companies about the realities and risks of climate change. Some documents have been leaked to the public by industry whistleblowers. Others have come to light through lawsuits or Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests.

Each dossier provides an illuminating inside look at this coordinated campaign of deception, an effort underwritten by ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, Peabody Energy, and other members of the fossil fuel industry.

Tactics employed by these companies include a million dollar contract supporting the work of climate contrarian aerospace engineer Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon:

gw-minigraphic-climate-deception-dossier-1-willie-soon-contracts

The fossil fuel industry also forged documents and letters and formed fake “astroturf” groups that purported to act on behalf of taxpayers rather than oil companies:

gw-minigraphic-climate-deception-dossier-4-ACCCE-forged-letters

As well as launching a sophisticated, multimillion dollar public relations campaign:

gw-minigraphic-climate-deception-dossier-5-ICE-memo

An Exxon whistleblower reveals his company first got interested in the greenhouse effect and global warming when it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia. An Exxon memo raises concern about it becoming the “largest point source of CO2 in the world.”

In 1995, the same whistleblower (working for Mobil) co-authored a memo to to the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a fossil fuel lobbying group. The memo, was distributed to other member companies and warned unequivocally that burning fossil fuels was causing global warming – that the relevant science “is well established and cannot be denied.”

gw-minigraphic-climate-deception-dossier-7-fossil-fuel-climate-science-primer

Many of the same companies – including BP, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, Mobil, Phillips, and Shell – were members of the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1998 when the trade group drafted a plan to secretly support “independent” researchers to publicly dispute established climate science:

gw-minigraphic-climate-deception-dossier-2-API-roadmap-memo

Link to full report: Climate Deception Dossiers

9 thoughts on “Climate Denial: Big Oil’s Multimillion Dollar Disinformation Campaign

    • Fortunately the climate denial movement has little traction outside the US. I’m also impressed to see US cities moving ahead on reducing carbon emissions. Most of the lobbying efforts of the climate denial industry seemed to be directed at Congress.

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      • FIRST OF ALL, I LIKE TO PREFACE WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY. PLANTS GIVE US OXYGEN, WHILE WE GIVE THEM CO2, WHICH IS WHAT THEY NEED. THIS IS AN EXCELLENT RELATIONSHIP THAT ONE CAN NOT ARGUE. PEOPLE SHOULD REALIZE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CARBON DIOXIDE AND CARBON MONOXIDE, THESE ARE VASTLY POLARIZED IN SUSTAINING LIFE. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE LESS CARS ON THE ROAD, FOR A FEW BASIC REASONS (1) THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SINCERELY DO NOT HAVE A TALENT FOR DRIVING, AND REALLY HAVE NO PLACE ON THE ROAD, (2) WE DO BECOME ELDERLY AND NEED OTHER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION, NOT EVERYONE HAS THEIR ABILITIES UNTIL DEATH, (3) IF A PERSON IS SICK AND THE ILLNESS DOES NOT REQUIRE AN AMBULANCE, THERE ARE OTHER MEANS, AND HERE IS ONE OF THE BIG ONES (4) GET DRUNK DRIVERS THE HELL OFF THE ROAD. HERE IS A LINK OF VAST EXPLORATION THAT LEADS INTO OTHER STREETS AND AVENUES AS WELL:

        http://weburbanist.com/2014/01/12/car-free-city-hamburg-announces-audacious-20-year-plan/

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  1. For me, the take away, here, is that big oil or any other for profit cartel, regardless of how damaging to the public welfare and biosphere their industrial undertakings may be, will always vigorously deny that damage, acquit itself of all responsibility for it, and undertake vast propaganda campaigns to confound the public over the issues as well as over its own best interests.

    One does well to note the sources of all propounded “information” on any controversial ecological and public welfare issue. Corporations stand but for profit; and the mainstream media, regardless of the side of any issue on which they fall, are the mouthpieces for profit seeking factions, even factions seemingly competing on opposing sides of any such an issue.

    There is, however and to my mind, another side to the global warming issue that seems to have fallen beneath the notice of most of us on the far left of the political spectrum.

    Most anti-capitalist and pro-environmental activists only recognize ‘climate denial’ as something that emanates from corporations like big oil, whose profits are apparently threatened by policies that would curtail CO2 emissions. What these activists often don’t recognize is that they may be being played on the issue of global warming, like on so many other issues, of which you yourself, Stuart, are keenly aware. For those self-same corporations actually stand to benefit handsomely from a situation in which the public would in its greater number support tightening restrictions on oil production, resulting in a tighter corporate control over oil resources, making these resources harder to come by in a political environment that would curtail their use, thereby creating scarcity conditions that might not otherwise obtain and that would raise the unit value (i.e. profit margins) of these resources, not to speak of the trillion dollar derivative markets that Wall Street would like to create by way of trade in carbon credits or other profit making opportunities in alternative and vastly more expensive alternative energy technologies. There is as much of a “real” capitalist angle, even among the big players in the oil industry, in creating an urgent public concern over global warming — as being anthropogenic — as there is a “perceived” resistance to that concern by that self-same industry and other corporate interests. And those who stand the most to lose in terms of the advantages that a cheap and portable energy resource like oil would bring to them are the people of so called emerging markets.

    The truth about global warming is itself a purely scientific question. Unfortunately, the ‘scientific debate’ over the issue has become so ‘politicized’ that the unresolved scientific issues over the matter are now buried and obscured beneath public notice.

    Recently, we’ve heard that “97%” of climate “experts” agree that global warming is happening and that CO2 is the definitive driver. So where does the figure that “97%” percent of climate “experts” agree come from and what does it mean, exactly? A link for you to a piece written by Judith Curry, exploring that question, titled: “The Conceits of Consensus” ( http://judithcurry.com/2015/08/27/the-conceits-of-consensus/ ) Curry has a lot of other interesting and well researched things to say about global warming and the state of ‘climate science.’ I would not categorize her as a ‘climate denier’ but as a scientist keenly aware of scientific issues that underscore the unanswered question of what in fact may be driving global warming or whether it is even happening.

    Unfortunately, we live in a political context where “…the ‘truth’ or ‘untruth’ of the hypothesis of AGW has little to do with its dissemination and acceptance in a broad cultural sense. That dissemination and acceptance is predominantly determined by ‘political’ factors, by who it is that controls the main channels of information distribution as well as the spigots for the funding of climate science research. In our society, regardless of which position on the issue of ‘global warming’ becomes prominent, that prominence ultimately derives from a vastly ascendant influence that rests with the corporate capitalist cartels. One should therefore expect that irrespective of the scientific validity or invalidity of the AGW hypothesis, the version deemed most propitious to advancing both the short- and long-term interests of the ruling elite will also be perceived to be, whether it is in ‘fact’ or not, the dominant ‘scientific consensus.’ The ‘truth value’ of this politically generated ‘consensus,’ whatever it may be, is and will continue to be incidental, largely arbitrary and coincidental, in a word, an accident, like so much else that is characteristic of our age and era.”

    I wonder how much Al Gore, an American oligarch, had to do with making global warming an urgent concern in the minds of many? Have the mainstream media touted the “97%” consensus figure or have they remained silent about it? Does it matter? Why would ‘those’ behind the promotion of a certain viewpoint matter in one instance and not in another? Do these concerns make me a ‘climate denier?’

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  2. Norman, my big beef with Al Gore is that his film, An Inconvenient Truth, makes out that the only solution to climate change is individuals making lifestyle changes and buying eco-friendly products (i.e. shopping). I think he knows better. The individual contribution to carbon emissions is tiny (about 22%). Most comes from industrial polluters. Moreover a large proportion of individuals can’t give up their cars (which produce one third of their personal emissions) because they work for minimum wage and live in low income suburbs with no options for public transportation.

    In other words, the most important steps for reducing carbon emissions have to come from government, in the form of a carbon tax on polluting industries, better urban planning so people don’t have to use a car to get to work or do their errands and a massive investment in public transportation (public transport in the US is even worse than NZ, which is saying a lot).

    I’m convinced Gore knew all this in 2006 when his film came out. Imagine where we would be know if he actually said it. Instead he put the responsibility preventing climate disruption on people who were the most helpless to do anything about it – instead of on corporations who hold the real power in society.

    I’m not sure what his motivation was, except to create a typical phony liberal narrative that gives lip service to “reform,” which keeping the bucks rolling in from corporate donors.

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