Two Powerful Studies Expose Manipulation Of Climate “Debate”

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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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16 thoughts on “Two Powerful Studies Expose Manipulation Of Climate “Debate”

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  • I’m no sure how thorough the list of good guys is. In utilities, “the three leading companies are National Grid, Iberdrola and EDF.” Iberdrola has notoriously (to Spaniards) been a key player in the gutting of the Spanish solar industry, to protect its wind, hydro and fossil assets. EDF is also OK on wind (under its control), but has been dragging its influential feet on nuisancy third-party solar in France. Partly as a result, France has a very low solar installation total compared to any of its neighbours. Aren’t there better lists, covering other sectors like retail? IKEA for instance is outstanding.

    • Good question. How about retail?
      I’d like to see a huge turn to recycling of consumer goods into new products. And clean transport. And clean products. And clean wages. And…

      • I would like to see recycling of plastics into diesel, achieving the Three R’s: Reduce (waste, pollution, landfill, Fossil fuel use), Re-use, Recycle

        • Better if we find a clean replacement for diesel. (Electricity, for example.) And re-bury the oil embedded in plastic.

  • I would like to see interviews with all the principal scientists involved in the Exxon research. They should all be retired now.

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    • If you haven’t read, “Unprecedented, Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis??” by David Ray Griffin, I highly recommend it. Griffin exposes much of the suppression and misinformation put out by Exxon.

      • Did Exxon somehow muzzle all the scientists involved in its climate research? Do they risk their retirement income by speaking out?

        • Money is a powerful force. Another example in the book regards Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. He was the one that brought a snowball into the chambers last winter to disprove global warming (it really should be referred to a climate change). Griffin exposes that by 2012, Inhofe has received $1.3 million from fossil fuel interests. By the way the book has 77 pages of footnotes of sources.

  • Funny that there are no comments from the usual trolls

  • The problem is, all the people that made the decision to suppress climate information and policy are retired or dead by now. The ones actively continuing these efforts right now will enjoy the same free pass. And when the bill comes due, they will be long gone and the fossil fuel corporate “persons” they leave behind will have either done the same thing or they will do anything they can to maintain their “too big to fail” status in the global economy to impose a meaningful level of liability. Privatize the profits and socialize the losses just like they always do.

    • There’s an easy way to defeat them, fill your roof with solar and drive an EV. Actions speak louder than words.

  • I’m also wondering how Toyota made the top three in the auto industry. Other than releasing the Prius 15 years ago, Toyota has fought against putting out any significant number of EVs, fought any increase in fuel efficiency standards, supported climate denial through ALEC, and tried to convince people to just keep waiting till some day when their fool cell vehicles will be magically cost effective and run on a vast network of hydrogen fueling station that will magically materialize in some cost-effective manner and run on renewable energy using a magical process that hasn’t been invented yet.

    • Toyota made very high quality, efficient cars in a size many wanted. Buyers were tired of land barges that gulped fuel and fell apart in a few years.

      I’m wondering if Toyota might have made it to the top and become complacent.

      It used to be that Toyota pretty much owned the market in many less developed countries. Even if the cars weren’t bought new they were imported as used as fast as they could be obtained. Now when I travel I’m seeing a lot of Kias and Hundias. Ecuador has an amazing large number of small Chevys. Especially the smaller SUVs that Chevy and Suzuki built together (or cross-badged/whatever).

      It wouldn’t be the first time a company got on top and quit trying as hard.

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