Peak Oil is You

Donate Bitcoins ;-) or Paypal :-)

Page added on August 30, 2017

Bookmark and Share

I Was an Exxon-Funded Climate Scientist

I Was an Exxon-Funded Climate Scientist thumbnail

ExxonMobil’s deliberate attempts to sow doubt on the reality and urgency of climate change and their donations to front groups to disseminate false information about climate change have been public knowledge for a long time, now.

Investigative reports in 2015 revealed that Exxon had its own scientists doing its own climate modeling as far back as the 1970s: science and modeling that was not only accurate, but that was being used to plan for the company’s future.

Now, a peer-reviewed study published August 23 has confirmed that what Exxon was saying internally about climate change was quantitatively very different from their public statements. Specifically, researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes found that at least 80 percent of the internal documents and peer-reviewed publications they studied from between 1977 and 2014 were consistent with the state of the science — acknowledging that climate change is real and caused by humans, and identifying “reasonable uncertainties” that any climate scientist would agree with at the time. Yet over 80 percent of Exxon’s editorial-style paid advertisements over the same period specifically focused on uncertainty and doubt, the study found.

The stark contrast between internally discussing cutting-edge climate research while externally conducting a climate disinformation campaign is enough to blow many minds. What was going on at Exxon?

I have a unique perspective — because I was there.

From 1995 to 1997, Exxon provided partial financial support for my master’s thesis, which focused on methane chemistry and emissions. I spent several weeks in 1996 as an intern at their Annandale research lab in New Jersey and years working on the collaborative research that resulted in three of the published studies referenced in Supran and Oreskes’ new analysis.

Climate research at Exxon

A scientist is a scientist no matter where we work, and my Exxon colleagues were no exception. Thoughtful, cautious and in full agreement with the scientific consensus on climate — these are characteristics any scientist would be proud to own.

Did Exxon have an agenda for our research? Of course — it’s not a charity. Their research and development was targeted, and in my case, it was targeted at something that would raise no red flags in climate policy circles: quantifying the benefits of methane reduction.

Methane is a waste product released by coal mining and natural gas leaks; wastewater treatment plants; farting and belching cows, sheep, goats and anything else that chews its cud; decaying organic trash in garbage dumps; giant termite mounds in Africa; and even, in vanishingly small amounts, our own lactose-intolerant family members.

On a mass basis, methane absorbs about 35 times more of the Earth’s heat than carbon dioxide. Methane has a much shorter lifetime than carbon dioxide gas, and we produce a lot less of it, so there’s no escaping the fact that carbon has to go. But if our concern is how fast the Earth is warming, we can get a big bang for our buck by cutting methane emissions as soon as possible, while continuing to wean ourselves off carbon-based fuels long-term.

For the gas and oil industry, reducing methane emissions means saving energy. So it’s no surprise that, during my research, I didn’t experience any heavy-handed guidance or interference with my results. No one asked to review my code or suggested ways to “adjust” my findings. The only requirement was that a journal article with an Exxon co-author pass an internal review before it could be submitted for peer review, a policy similar to that of many federal agencies.

Did I know what else they were up to at the time? I couldn’t even imagine it.

Fresh out of Canada, I was unaware that there were people who didn’t accept climate science — so unaware, in fact, that it was nearly half a year before I realized I’d married one — let alone that Exxon was funding a disinformation campaign at the very same time it was supporting my research on the most expedient ways to reduce the impact of humans on climate.

Yet Exxon’s choices have contributed directly to the situation we are in today, a situation that in many ways seems unreal: one where many elected representatives oppose climate action, while China leads the U.S. in wind energysolar powereconomic investment in clean energy and even the existence of a national cap and trade policy similar to the ill-fated Waxman-Markey bill of 2009.

Personal decisions

This latest study underscores why many are calling on Exxon to be held responsible for knowingly misleading the public on such a critical issue. For scientists and academics, though, it may fuel another, different, yet similarly moral debate.

Are we willing to accept financial support that is offered as a sop to the public conscience?

The concept of tendering literal payment for sin is nothing new. From the indulgences of the Middle Ages to the criticisms some have leveled at carbon offsets today, we humans have always sought to stave off the consequences of our actions and ease our conscience with good deeds, particularly of the financial kind. Today, many industry groups follow this familiar path: supporting science denial with the left hand, while giving to cutting-edge research and science with the right.

The Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University conducts fundamental research on efficient and clean energy technologies — with Exxon as a founding sponsor. Philanthropist and political donor David Koch gave an unprecedented US$35 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2015, after which three dozen scientists called on the museum to cut ties with him for funding lobbying groups that “misrepresent” climate science. Shell underwrote the London Science Museum’s “Atmosphere” program and then used its leverage to muddy the waters on what scientists know about climate.

It may be easy to point a finger at others, but when it happens to us, the choice might not seem so clear. Which is most important — the benefit of the research and education, or the rejection of tainted funds?

The appropriate response to morally tainted offerings is an ancient question. In the book of Corinthians, the apostle Paul responds to a query on what to do with food that has been sacrificed to idols — eat or reject?

His response illustrates the complexity of this issue. Food is food, he says — and by the same token, we might say money is money today. Both food and money, though, can imply alliance or acceptance. And if it affects others, a more discerning response may be needed.

What are we as academics to do? In this open and transparent new publishing world of ours, declaration of financial supporters is both important and necessary. Some would argue that a funder, however loose and distant the ties, casts a shadow over the resulting research. Others would respond that the funds can be used for good. Which carries the greatest weight?

After two decades in the trenches of climate science, I’m no longer the ingenue I was. I’m all too aware, now, of those who dismiss climate science as a “liberal hoax.” Every day, they attack me on Facebook, vilify me on Twitter and even send the occasional hand-typed letter — which begs appreciation of the artistry, if not the contents. So now, if Exxon came calling, what would I do?

There’s no one right answer to this question. Speaking for myself, I might ask them to give those funds to politicians who endorse sensible climate policy — and cut their funding to those who don’t. Or I admire one colleague’s practical response: to use a Koch-funded honorarium to purchase a lifetime membership in the Sierra Club.

Despite the fact that there’s no easy answer, it’s a question that’s being posed to more and more of us every day, and we cannot straddle the fence any longer. As academics and scientists, we have some tough choices to make; and only by recognizing the broader implications of these choices are we able to make these decisions with our eyes wide open, rather than half shut.

DeSmog Blog

128 Comments on "I Was an Exxon-Funded Climate Scientist"

  1. Roger Wilco on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 3:42 pm 

    How does one conclude anything other than the super wealthy top executives of Exxon are filled with hatred for their offspring? On the one hand they’re set for life financially and many more generations to come, yet uninterested in the well being of subsequent family generations. How does a person reconcile love of one’s self with indifference to their prodigy? These are sociological questions that can be added on to the above article’s questions.

  2. onlooker on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 3:54 pm 

    Roger, our aptitude for cognitive dissonance and denial seems enormous. If you wish enough surely it is or it will come true. They probably are thinking some techno fix will save the day for their descendants.

  3. Boat on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 5:15 pm 


    Like a water additive that sterilizes 10 percent of humans from age 12 to 25 until sustainability is reached.

  4. Sissyfuss on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 5:16 pm 

    Rog, to be in the positions they’re in and to do the things they do,they have to be narcissists bordering on sociopaths. Their children are nothing more than accoutrements to their public image. I have experience in this.

  5. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 5:35 pm 

    Please Read “Private Empire, ExxonMobil and American Power”…

    Exxon CEO Lee Raymond Genuinely thought that man-made climate change was a hoax developed by the CIA in an effort to reduce or minimize the growth of global oil demand…

    Due to the nature of ExxonMobil’s business, Lee Raymond was armed with more information on global sea-level fluctuations than the rest of the world combined… ExxonMobil’s interpretation of that data was that man-made climate change was not a serious threat…

    “At one time, 90% of the people thought the world was flat, No?” – Lee Raymond…

    His successor, Rex Tillerson, under pressure from ExxonMobil’s board of directors took the position that he did not believe that the facts support man-made climate change, but in the event that he is wrong, it will not be anything that the global community cannot adapt to…

  6. Apneaman on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 5:51 pm 

    So Let’s Talk About the Science of How Climate Change Kicked HarveyEXXON into Higher Gear

    Half a World Away From Harvey, Global Warming Fueled Deluges Now Impact 42 Million People

    How Climate Change Contributed to Massive Floods in South Asia

    Heavy monsoon rains have caused disastrous floods and left millions displaced in South Asia. Like Harvey, climate change likely played a role.

  7. Duncan Idaho on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:03 pm 

    This is simply a rent a whore by Exxon.
    May morally malleable science prostitutes out for hire.

  8. shortonoil on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:14 pm 

    If humans had never gone the fossil fuel route, what would the climate look like today? Climate science has no answer to that question. Of course, if it hadn’t you wouldn’t be here to read the question in the first place.

  9. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:18 pm 

    The US is owned and run by the MIC and the oil companies. It’s ALL about money and power.

    This is why you should ALWAYS check out who is signing th4 paycheck of the writer/think ta/research group before you decide fact from fiction. There are so many ‘red herrings’ today that the news smells like rotten fish.

  10. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:31 pm 

    Duncan; I recommend that you read the book I mentioned above.

    XOM is in the business of producing enough oil to meet global oil demand. That is a simple fact.

    If global oil demand is NOT met (& we are dangerously close to such an eventuality), then the balance of power on this planet will make a DRASTIC shift away from the west.

    XOM does what they do to 1) turn a profit, 2) help ensure US superiority in the world.

    Think twice before criticizing an entity who works hard to ensure that we are not all speaking Russian.

    It is really amazing how eager the posters here are to engage in discussions, when they are truly & totally ignorant as to what is really going on in the world. They seem to be in denial as to what REALLY makes the world go around…

  11. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:33 pm 

    shortonoil, and how did you come to that conclusion? Maybe we would all be here, but living a very different life. Most of us would be farming and there would be no mega cities/farms/governments. The arable land on the planet would allow each person today about 7,000sf. The is enough to support yourself if you had to. Several sources I have read, say we can manage on 4,000sf/person.

    As for myself being here. Well, I lived in the “indispensable/exceptional” country which was doing ok until oil was discovered. I can assume that I would be here anyway as it was not really fully settled until after my birth. The Asian population might be lower. We will never know. Oil and greed has killed the species.

  12. Boat on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:43 pm 


    Another insult-er eh? With OPEC slashing production 1.8 mbpd because of a long running glut and with US frackers adding over 100 thousand per month your conclusion is were dangerously close to not meeting global demand. Maybe you should read numbers instead of parroting misinformation.

  13. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:49 pm 


    It is not Greed that has turned this into the Age of Petroleum…

    It is a simple desire of every man woman & child to have a better life & to leave their children with a better life than they had…

    That is why global oil demand is what it is today… To suggest that ‘Greedy Oil Companies’ are the reason that demand at record highs & growing is to admit that maybe you don’t really understand what you are talking about.

    Everyone wants to prosper & a better life for their defendants. This is not a crime. & that is the simple reason that global oil demand is what it is.

    Are farmers greedy for selling food to people who want to eat??? NO!!!

    Then why are Oil Companies labeled as greedy for selling oil to people who need oil to run their businesses & go about their daily lives???

  14. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:52 pm 

    Boat; to point out that a poster(s) is ignorant is not an insult… It is a simple statement of a fact.

    If someone has red hair & I say: “Her hair is red”, have I insulted anyone or just stated a fact?

  15. Sissyfuss on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:56 pm 

    Sounds like Tom the troll never left the 50s. Why don’t you take your magic decoder ring and decipher for us what the hell Trumpski is really saying. Maybe that Exxon loves us all.

  16. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 7:58 pm 


    Maybe you should look at the big picture, instead of simply counting barrels of oil. The U.S., for example, has doubled all time historical government debt, in less than 10 years. Or the fact that a good percentage of that surplus of oil that came online when prices were north of $100/bbl, is not profitable at today’s prices. But don’t let that stop you from continuing to parrot the propaganda, and disinformation.

  17. Sissyfuss on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:00 pm 

    And Simpletom, we know what makes the world go round. But unlike you we know what destroys it’s naturalness.

  18. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:03 pm 


    “It is a simple desire of every man woman & child to have a better life & to leave their children with a better life than they had…”

    So that’s the reason why every man, woman & child continues to ignore over 40 years worth of warnings from the scientific community.

    Thanks for helping to make sense out of it all.

  19. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:06 pm 


    ExxonMobil (an American Company) had obtained total, irrevocable controlling interest in Russia’s newly discovered oil reserves in the Kara Sea…

    Who do you want to be in control of the next ~300 Billion BBLs of reserves that the world desperately needs?

    Would you rather Russia control it? or an American Corporation?

  20. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:14 pm 

    I find it very interesting that individuals who choose to post on site like this are

    (1) unaware of how important crude oil is & will continue to be to the world, &

    (2) have no clue as to how closely ExxonMobil is geopolitically aligned with US longterm interest – thus ensuring that world we live in is stable, &

    (3) Would rather engage in conversations about global warming than discussing the realities that are at hand…

  21. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:18 pm 

    Perhaps Global Warming is a worthy case, I am highly skeptical, but perhaps it is.

    Still they concern right now should be how to deliver more oil to the market so that the US retains their global supremacy.

    Global warming can be felt with at a more prudent time.

  22. Boat on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:20 pm 

    “Maybe you should look at the big picture, instead of simply counting barrels of oil”.

    Maybe if you had watched more tv you would learn the value of barrel counting. Barrel counting/supply demand is capitalism. Capitalism is how the world works.

  23. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:25 pm 

    Tom is a petroleum whore. Humans are GREEDY, Tom. Defending that greed is a hallmark of a dirty, immoral, ‘for profit’, Capitalist. America plunders and kills to keep it’s “lifestyle”. Is that not GREED? When 25% of the world’s resources? GREED! GREED! GREED!

  24. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:26 pm 


    Capitalism is exactly how the world works, as I stated upthread when I said:

    “It is a simple desire of every man woman & child to have a better life & to leave their children with a better life than they had”…

    I appreciate your support…

  25. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:27 pm 

    Boat, you too are a Capitalist petroleum whore just like Tom. Simple, yes? lol

  26. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:30 pm 

    Tom, tell that Capitalist bullshit to the 2/3 of the world that has none of those ‘benefits’ because of greedy Capitalism.

  27. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:32 pm 

    Sometimes I wish there really was a Hell so that the 1% could all go there. Oh, wait! They are already creating one here on earth for all of us to ‘enjoy’.

  28. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:33 pm 


    I appreciate your passion, but you are incorrect.

    America plunders & kills in an effort to meet global oil demand by whatever means necessary.

    America plunders & kills to keep oil prices down & thus retain global supremacy & absolute power.

    Is that wrong? Yes, I think it is; but it is the world we live in.

    American does not plunder & kill to obtain wealth, we plunder & kill to ensure world domination…

    This battle has been going on since the late 40’s. It is called the “Cold War”… & America is now more vulnerable than they have ever been…

  29. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:34 pm 

    Tom, getting ‘support’ from the village idiot does not make your ideas correct. Just the opposite.

  30. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:38 pm 

    “kill to obtain wealth, we plunder & kill to ensure world domination…”

    There’s that WE again.


    When was the last time that you killed or plundered anyone? And do you honestly believe that the people who are willing to murder others to get ahead, give a rat’s ass about you? Give your head a shake. They don’t. You are not in the club.

  31. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:39 pm 

    Tom, you are so full of bullshit, your eyes are brown. You profess that there is no way to stop the plunder and murders your country does everyday in the name of ‘democracy’. That is just a way of saying “I want things to stay the way they are because I am enjoying the benefits. Screw the rest of the world”.

    You CAN stop it. It is called “revolution’. Your masters are destroying America so they can have their one world government where they are the TOTAL masters of your fate. Anything else is hypocrisy and greed.

  32. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:40 pm 

    America rapes 3rd world countries with oil wealth in an effort to get their oil to market as soon as possible & keep oil prices down…

    At the same time they set these counties up with dictators who refuse to distribute the wealth, thus insuring that the oil demand of the 3rd world country will not increase…

    This is a fact & it has been happening for decades…

    When countries like Iraq or Venezuela who have major oil reserves but refuse to develop them – refused to use their reserves as means of holding oil prices down; The US starts plotting means of overthrowing that government…

    Oil, it is what makes the world go around…

  33. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:41 pm 


    My & your tax dollars are used to plunder & kill everyday…

  34. Boat on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:44 pm 


    I just know oil will be the transportation fuel until something else becomes cheaper. I don’t look at oil as something to support or not. I am not like you, I don’t get to emotionally attached over a commodity. You trash Americans when there are pockets of humans around the world who use a lot more FF than I personally do. I buy as little energy as I can. Let’s face it, buying extra energy dosent do much for me. lol

  35. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:44 pm 

    I never said that my country does anything in the name of “democracy”…

    The US plunders & kills for the sake of ensuring low oil prices & world supremacy…

    I never said it was right… & “democracy” is just an excuse that the US Government uses to invade countries & develop their oil reserves at a higher rate…

    These are facts guys… their should be no arguments here…

  36. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:46 pm 

    Tom, then stop paying taxes. Simple, NO? I do not pay taxes. Haven’t since I retired. I do not support the US plunder and murder in any way. The US gets not $1 of my resources. Everyone here knows how much I hope the US goes down soon. It will be a huge plus for the rest of the world. That will also end most globalization and all that you ‘enjoy’. So be it. Today would be a good day for that first domino to fall.

  37. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:49 pm 

    Tom; I make too much money to get away with tax evasion…

    Besides, I accept the fact that a little looting, plundering & killing is necessary for the US to retain their position of power in the world…

  38. Apneaman on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:53 pm 

    boat, take a few deep breaths before you carry on with the system justification and apologetics. Sometimes you remind me of an abused woman who, while sporting a black eye and fat lip, gets mad at anyone who criticizes her owner hubby. ‘Yabut he loves me’

    Oil refineries have released 2 million pounds of chemicals in Harvey’s wake, and scientists are worried

    “Those chemicals include cancer-causing and potentially lethal gases like carbon monoxide and benzene, among others.

    Shortly after Harvey made landfall, companies including Exxon Mobil and Valero Energy began to shutter local facilities and evacuate workers, taking close to a fifth of the nation’s total refining capacity offline.

    Yet those efforts failed, in many cases, to prevent the release of hazardous pollutants into the environment.”

  39. Anonymouse1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 8:57 pm 

    No, boat is not a capitalist whore, what he is a…..


  40. Apneaman on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:00 pm 

    Harvey Danger: Major Chemical Plant Near Houston Likely to Explode, Facility Owner Warns

    “One of the world’s largest chemical companies warned Wednesday that its flooded plant near Houston will likely catch fire and explode in the next few days — and there’s nothing the company can do about it.”

    ‘Yabut he loves me’

    ‘It’s just capitalism’

  41. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:02 pm 

    Tom, “..a little looting, plundering & killing is necessary…” A true Capitalist speaking. And those “little” numbers total MILLIONS of innocent men, women and children … including babies. over the last few decades. Not to mention the total destruction of countries.

    If Dante’s circles of Hell were real, I would wish for you, and those like you, to enjoy the deepest one for eternity. I only hope you have a long, painful death by starvation when your end comes. You deserve it.

  42. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:03 pm 

    Anon, well, yes, he is that also. lol

  43. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:03 pm 

    “My & your tax dollars are used to plunder & kill everyday…”

    I don’t live in the U.S. Tom, and if I did, I would be the first to speak out against that. I do not condone murder.

  44. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:06 pm 

    “Besides, I accept the fact that a little looting, plundering & killing is necessary for the US to retain their position of power in the world…”

    Problem is Tom, the rest of the world has had enough of the looting, plundering, and murdering, and the U.S. Is already, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt. (and not just fiscally)

  45. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:07 pm 

    Boat: “I buy as little energy as I can.”

    Then you are doing your part to ensure that the US is the sole powerhouse on the planet!!!

    I wonder how much money was invested by the US Government into creating movements that have resulted in your way of thinking & thus your efforts to use as little energy as possible?

  46. Boat on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:10 pm 


    “Oil refineries have released 2 million pounds of chemicals in Harvey’s wake, and scientists are worried”

    Fine them, regulate them with triple hull storage shells. Thats when new laws happen and future fines happen, after a tragety. Part of fabric of life in the US. Third world countries. Let em die.

  47. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:14 pm 

    “Third world countries. Let em die.”

    So there it is, the ugly truth. You are morally bankrupt Boat, and a very good reason why so many billions of people on this Earth, cannot wait to see bad shit happen to you, and the very reason why it is going to happen.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  48. Tom on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:17 pm 

    Those refineries enable the US to have the economy & the standard of living that we do.

    Accidents happen, but all & all these companies help ensure your way of life.

  49. Makati1 on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:18 pm 

    BTW Tom: Here are the current signs of the US end…

    “The utter deconstruct of the United States of America is underway. Those American “values” former President Barack Obama and his cadre parroted at us, they’ll soon be lost like tears in rain. Charlottesville, Virginia and the hysterical liberal response to those events, are of a foreboding all Americans should fear.”

    “Hurricane Harvey: An Environmental Nightmare, America’s Neglected Infrastructure”
    “Where There’s [Almost] “Blood In The Streets” In America Today…” (Be patient. It’s coming.)
    “Houston Reeling Amid Outbreak Of Looting, Armed Robberies; Vigilantes Emerge”
    “Coast Guard Updates: Major Ports In Texas Are “Condition Zulu””
    “The water flooding Texas right now is probably filled with infectious bacteria”
    “Obese toddlers begin showing signs of heart failure by age of one, study finds” (“Super-size it!”)
    “Worries about a Galveston Bio-Lab” (Blow-back from bio warfare?)
    “Living paycheck to paycheck is the way of life: New Harris poll finds that 78 percent of US workers live paycheck to paycheck.” (The Great Leveling continues.)

    And on and on. A fast failing country…

  50. GregT on Wed, 30th Aug 2017 9:20 pm 

    I might add Boat, it is the idiots such as yourself that make me question my contributions to the tragedy in Texas. Fortunately, there are tens of millions of decent American citizens. You are not one of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *