An Exxon-Mobil-funded think tank offered scientists $10,000 to write papers undermining a new major report on climate change.
First reported by The Guardian, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative, pro-business research-and-education organization based in Washington, wrote scientists before Friday’s release of a report by the U.N.-backed International Panel on Climate Change.
In a Webcast news conference from Paris, France, Susan Solomon of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said IPCC scientists “can now have very high confidence” that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases since 1750 are in part attributable to human activities like burning fossil fuels, land use and agriculture.
The AEI letter, posted on the Think Progress Web site, says in part: “As with any large-scale ‘consensus’ process, the IPCC is susceptible to self-selection bias in its personnel, resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent, and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work of the complete Working Group reports.”
It said the group hopes to counter by sponsoring a paper “that thoughtfully explores the limitations of climate model outputs as they pertain to the development of climate policy.”
The letter offered “an honoraria of $10,000” for a 7,500-10,000 word essay, followed by additional honoraria and travel expenses for a series of small conferences and seminars.
Exxon reported annual profit of $39.5 billion for 2006, the highest corporate profit in American history. Given that record profit, said Robert Parham of the BaptistCenter for Ethics, the oil behemoth “can afford a library full of misleading papers written by those who sell science for shillings the way medicine men sold snake-oil.”
Like big tobacco, Parham said, “Big oil worships profit and sacrifices human well-being for the benefit of a few.”
Greenpeace spokeswoman Jane Kochersperger said in the Washington Post that AEI “has clearly hit a new low … when it’s throwing out cash awards under the rubric of ‘reason’ to create confusion on the status of climate science.”
AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green–one of two researchers who sought to commission the critiques–said his group is examining the policy debate on global warming, not the science. “It’s completely policy-oriented,” he told the Post. “Somebody wants to distort this.”
According to The Guardian, the AEI has received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil. More than 20 of its 175 staff members have worked as consultants to the Bush administration.
EthicsDaily.com reported last year the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, signer of an Interfaith Stewardship Alliance statement questioning an earlier report by evangelicals linking human activity to global warming, received $240,000 from Exxon/Mobil in 2005. The AEI’s Web site reported total revenue for 2005 of $37.9 million.
In January the Union of Concerned Scientists accused Exxon/Mobil of underwriting a disinformation campaign to deceive the public about the reality of global warming, spending $16 million between 1998 and 2005 on a network of advocacy organizations to manufacture doubts about the science of climate change.
Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, Tenn., said, “When we hear deniers of global warming, we need, as a first rule of thumb, to ask two questions: First, what oil company is paying them? Second, why do they oppose caring for the earth, a clear biblical mandate?”
“Christian discipleship involves discernment,” Parham said. “Discernment means always questioning political ideologues.”
The AEI describes itself as a private, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization with purposes including “to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism–limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and responsibility, vigilant and effective defense and foreign policies, political accountability, and open debate.”
While the Institute says its president and individual writers, and not donors, are responsible for content, position papers include titles like “Environmental Activists Just Don’t Get It,” “Burying Evidence: The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Unscientific Claims about Air Pollution and Health” and “Facts Not Fear on Air Pollution.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.