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Climate Change

Two Powerful Studies Expose Manipulation Of Climate “Debate”

Two extensive studies released yesterday (September 16, 2015) reveal a long-term betrayal of the truth about climate by major US business identities. Make-believe corporate “persons” have knowingly undermined the health, safety, and even short-term survival of real humans and other living things. One of the studies explores the metamorphosis of ExxonMobil to “the dark side” over the past 40 years. The other implicates almost half of the world’s 100 largest companies, including Procter & Gamble and Duke Energy, in obstructing climate change legislation.

Exxon's Richard Werthamer (right) and Edward Garvey (left) aboard the company's Esso Atlantic tanker measuring carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and atmosphere during a 1979-1982 project (Richard Werthamer, via ICN.)

Exxon’s Richard Werthamer (right) and Edward Garvey (left) aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker measuring carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and atmosphere during a 1979-1982 project (Richard Werthamer, via ICN).

“Propaganda,” hard-liners will initially scoff. A huge mass of evidence, painstakingly collected and parsed, points to the opposite conclusion. We have apparently been over and over effed over.

A team of three investigative reporters and five other staff members at InsideClimate News unraveled the details of the Exxon story. Forty years ago, Exxon led the study of climatology and documentation of the curious stifling of earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases proliferated by man. The ICN report documents through primary sources how petroleum industry leaders realized that revealing the facts on carbon dioxide emissions could impact profits, and how they deliberately fogged the truth in multimillion-dollar waves of denial.

An Esso atmospheric CO2 chart (“ICN’s reporters interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists, and federal officials, and consulted hundreds of pages of internal Exxon documents, many of them written between 1977 and 1986, during the heyday of Exxon’s innovative climate research program. ICN combed through thousands of documents from archives including those held at the University of Texas-Austin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”

Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song, and David Hasemyer put together the investigation for ICN. Part Two comes out today. Banerjee sums up eight months of fact-finding on video here.

From today’s report:

“After reading the first chapter of InsideClimate News‘ series on Exxon’s carbon dioxide research, the company declined to answer specific questions. In an email, Exxon spokesman Richard D. Keil said he would no longer respond to inquiries from InsideClimate News, and added, ‘ExxonMobil scientists have been involved in climate research and related policy analysis for more than 30 years, yielding more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed publications.'”

The second study yesterday reveals how executives of other mega-corporations have perpetuated misinformation to protect profits, and how politicians are still either falling for it or bribed into submission. The authors “forensically evaluated the 100 leading, publicly traded companies along with 30 trade associations and …scored them according to the extent to which they are exerting this influence.”

InfluenceMap—an avowedly neutral, independent UK nonprofit set up to map, analyze, and score the extent to which corporations are influencing climate policy and legislation worldwide—conducted this body of research. The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust supports the organization. The table from the report shows its sector-by-sector results.


The clear leaders are the Japanese trio of NissanHonda and Toyota. Nissan stands out as ranking second in our system and perhaps not coincidentally, second in both the EU and US EPAmetrics on fleet emissions. The company’s outspoken CEO Carlos Ghosn has messaged his support for stronger GHG emissions standards as well as policy support for electric vehicle infrastructure, both of which could help his company’s position as the global leader in electric vehicles.

Consumer Staples

The leaders in this sector are UnileverNestle and Coca Cola. Unilever scores higher than any other corporation in our survey with an organizational score of 95%. Our study of Unilever’s CEO messaging, legislative consultations and official disclosures shows strong support for a UN treaty, a robust price on carbon and progressive reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Nestle displays similar traits although to a slightly lesser extent.


The three leading companies are National GridIberdrola and EDF. Iberdrola in particular voice strong support for a 2 degrees-based UN treaty backed up with support for a robust EU Emissions Trading Scheme and early introduction of a Market Stability Reserve to allow for long-term renewable energy investment.


The two leaders in this sector are ABB and United Technologies. ABB’s CEO messaging on low carbon policy and the company has demonstrated support for energy efficiency targets in Europe. United Technologies likewise has shown support at the US Congressional level for energy efficiency standards in the US. The business interests of both companies are clearly intertwined with the increased adoption of energy efficiency technology.

Information Technology

The Silicon Valley trio of GoogleCisco and Apple lead this powerful sector. All relatively young companies, they have less deep relationships with trade associations who may oppose climate regulation and relatively few legacy connections with the high carbon economy. A key area of policy engagement for Apple and Google and others is support of a regulatory framework to facilitate renewable energy proliferation.


Of the thirteen energy companies (all fossil fuel based) in our survey the top ranked are ENI,Shell and Total. As might be expected the sector performs far worse than any other, with the companies demonstrating a complex array of engagements with various strands of climate change regulations. US energy giants ChevronExxon Mobil and Phillips 66 lag in this sector withKoch Industries scoring last of any company on our list with an Organizational Score of 13%.

You can download the project summary here.

The ICN and InfluenceMap reports show that industry employees uncovered the danger of rising atmospheric CO2 levels early enough to preclude major environmental and social impacts. Today, a widening chorus of scientists agrees that our chances of doing so have fallen to two out of three. Culpability rests with corporate persons, not individuals. But when will we start taking our own advice? Will it then be too late?

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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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