War on Science: Science Strikes Back
The war on science driven by a combination of Republican* ideology and corporate cash has been ably documented by Chris Mooney (see the Crooked Timber seminar here). Now, finally, science is striking back at one of the worst corporate enemies of science, ExxonMobil. As evidence of human-caused global warming has accumulated, leading energy companies like BP have seen the need to respond, with the result that industry groups like the Global Climate Coalition have broken down, leaving ExxonMobil to carry on a rearguard action through a network of shills and front groups. Now the company is finally being exposed by a major scientific organisation.
In an apparently unprecedented move, the British Royal Society has written to Exxon, stating that of the organization listed in Exxon’s 2005 WorldWide Giving Report for ‘public information and policy research‘, 39 feature
information on their websites that misrepresented the science on climate change, either by outright denial of the evidence that greenhouse gases are driving climate change, or by overstating the amount and significance of uncertainty in knowledge, or by conveying misleading impression of the potential impacts of climate change
(full copy of the letter here)
I haven’t found the list of organizations noted as engaging in misrepresentation yet, but from reports I’ve read they include the International Policy Network, the George C Marshall Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Reading the Exxon list, it’s easy to identify other consistently dishonest groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the National Centre for Policy Analysis, the Pacific Research Institute and so on.
n the letter, Bob Ward of the Royal Society writes:
At our meeting in July … you indicated that ExxonMobil would not be providing any further funding to these organisations. I would be grateful if you could let me know when ExxonMobil plans to carry out this pledge.
With rumors swirling about that Rupert Murdoch has also seen the light on this issue, some professional denialists could find themselves out of work before long.
The unequivocal tone of the letter leaves no room for ambiguity here. Either the Royal Society (along with the dozens of scientific organisations cited in the letter) is lying about Exxon, or Exxon and its front groups are lying about science. It’s hard to imagine that Exxon can win this fight, now that its activities are out in the open.
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* this kind of destructive irrationalism is specifically associated with the US Republican Party and its partisans in other countries, and should not be dignified with a philosophical label such as “conservative”