By Zahra Hirji,
22 February 2016
(InsideClimate News) – More than 100 geoscientists are calling on the American Geophysical Union to drop ExxonMobil as a sponsor of its annual earth science conference in response to the company's years of spreading climate denial views. The call appeared in an open letter posted Monday morning on a science website called The Natural History Museum.
The oil giant Exxon has a history of funding organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation and try to thwart policies that address climate change—in direct conflict with the earth science association's mission and funding policies, the scientists said in their letter to Margaret Leinen, president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
"AGU has established a long history of scientific excellence with its peer-reviewed publications and conferences, as well as a strong position statement on the urgency of climate action," the letter said. "But by allowing Exxon to appropriate AGU's institutional social license to help legitimize the company's climate misinformation, AGU is undermining its stated values as well as the work of its own members," it added.
Leinen responded in a post on AGU's blog. "The AGU Board of Directors will take up the questions raised in this letter at their upcoming meeting in April, and prior to that will carefully review the information that has been provided, and any additional information that becomes available in the meantime," Leinen wrote.
The scientists' letter cites an eight-month InsideClimate News investigation, which revealed that Exxon's own scientists conducted cutting-edge climate research in the late 1970s and 1980s before the company pivoted to directing campaigns that cast doubt on global warming science. [more]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
22 February 2016
Contact: Ben Scandella, 206-276-2699, firstname.lastname@example.org
108 scientists call on world’s largest Earth science organization to reject ExxonMobil sponsorship
Cambridge, MA – Today, more than 100* geoscientists sent a letter to the President of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) - the world’s largest association of Earth scientists - calling for an end to ExxonMobil sponsorship of AGU in a stand against climate science disinformation.
Signatories include leading AGU-member scientists such as former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and renowned climatologist Professor James E. Hansen, former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Harvard Professor James J. McCarthy, Penn State’s Earth System Science Center director Michael E. Mann, and author of Merchants of Doubt and Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes, as well as other concerned geoscientists including Professor Hans Schellnhuber, CBE, who currently serves as Chair of the German government’s Advisory Council on Global Change and as a climate advisor to the Pope.
“As Earth scientists, we are deeply troubled by the well-documented complicity of ExxonMobil in climate denial and misinformation…By allowing Exxon to appropriate AGU’s institutional social license to help legitimize the company’s climate misinformation, AGU is undermining its stated values as well as the work of many of its own members,” states the letter.
In fact, AGU’s own Organizational Support Policy states that “AGU will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.” Despite this claim, the nearly 24,000 attendees of the AGU 2015 Fall meeting were greeted by a prominent display of gratitude for Exxon’s sponsorship.
Asked why she signed the letter, Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes - whose work has been instrumental in exposing the corporate-financed public relations efforts to sow confusion about scientific issues ranging from tobacco smoke to climate change - explained, “The scientific community has been clear and articulate in communicating the reality and threat of global warming. However, accepting sponsorship from ExxonMobil undermines that message. We cannot say that climate change is real and demonstrated, and at the same time turn a blind eye to the real and demonstrated nature of ExxonMobil’s anti-scientific activities.”
The letter comes amid the ExxonMobil climate denial scandal, with the company currently under investigation by the New York and California Attorneys General as to whether it lied to the public and its shareholders about climate change risks.
Leading climatologist Michael Mann, a signatory whose “hockey stick” global warming graph has made him a well-known target of attacks by climate deniers, remarked, “While I recognize that it is a contentious matter within the diverse AGU community, I just don't see how we can, in good conscience, continue to accept contributions from a company that has spent millions of dollars over several decades funding bad faith attacks on scientists within our community whose scientific findings happen to be inconvenient for fossil fuel interests.”
“As the largest and most respected society of Earth scientists in the world, the AGU should not be invested in nor take money from a corporation that places its profits above the health and well-being of our global society,” commented Cornell University Professor Charles Greene, another signatory of the letter.
The letter is the most recent example of a growing trend of scientists stepping out of their traditional roles to advocate for stronger climate action and to counter climate science disinformation in response to the urgency of climate change. For example, through the recently launched Climate Feedback project, scientists are evaluating the credibility of climate science presented in the popular press. Last Spring, dozens of the world’s top scientists released a letter urging science museums to cut ties to fossil fuel interests. They subsequently led a campaign to remove David Koch from the board of New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Mr. Koch resigned from his board position in December.
*Note: A few signatories prefer to not disclose their names in the online version of the letter.
The open letter is published in full at: http://thenaturalhistorymuseum.org/scientists-to-agu-drop-exxon-sponsorship
The letter follows an editorial by three AGU members, published in January, calling on AGU to reject Exxon’s sponsorship of its future scientific conferences: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2016/jan/06/why-is-the-largest-earth-science-conference-still-sponsored-by-exxon
Dear Dr. Margaret Leinen,
We, the undersigned members of AGU (and other concerned geoscientists), write to ask you to please reconsider ExxonMobil’s sponsorship of the AGU Fall Meetings.
As Earth scientists, we are deeply troubled by the well-documented complicity of ExxonMobil in climate denial and misinformation. For example, recent investigative journalism has shed light on the fact that Exxon, informed by their in-house scientists, has known about the devastating global warming effects of fossil fuel burning since the late 1970s, but spent the next decades funding misinformation campaigns to confuse the public, slander scientists, and sabotage science – the very science conducted by thousands of AGU members. Even today, Exxon continues to fund the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobbying group that routinely misrepresents climate science to US state legislators and attempts to block pro-renewable energy policies. Just last year, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson downplayed the validity of climate models and the value of renewable energy policies.
The impacts of Exxon’s tactics have been devastating. Thanks in part to Exxon, the American public remains confused and polarized about climate change. And thanks in part to Exxon, climate science-denying members of Congress and lobby groups operating at the state level remain a major obstacle to US efforts to mitigate climate change.
The research disciplines of Earth sciences conducted by AGU members are diverse, but they are united by their shared value of truthfulness. AGU states that its mission and core values are to “promote discovery in Earth science for the benefit of humanity” and for “a sustainable future.” Indeed, AGU has established a long history of scientific excellence with its peer-reviewed publications and conferences, as well as a strong position statement on the urgency of climate action, and we’re proud to be included among its members.
But by allowing Exxon to appropriate AGU’s institutional social license to help legitimize the company’s climate misinformation, AGU is undermining its stated values as well as the work of many of its own members. The Union’s own Organizational Support Policy specifically states that “AGU will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.” We believe that in fully and transparently assessing sponsors on a case-by-case basis, AGU will determine that some, including ExxonMobil, do not meet the standards of this policy. We therefore call on you as the President of AGU to protect the integrity of climate science by rejecting the sponsorship of future AGU conferences by corporations complicit in climate misinformation, starting with ExxonMobil.
While we recognize that some of AGU’s scientific disciplines are deeply tied to the fossil fuel industry, we are also increasingly aware of the tension within our community regarding how we should respond to the urgency of climate change as individual scientists and as institutions. It is time to bring this tension into the light and determine how an organization such as AGU should approach the major challenges of today to ensure that we truly are working for the benefit of humanity. In particular, as the world’s largest organization of Earth scientists, if we do not take an active stand against climate misinformation now, when will we?
Robert R. Bidigare, PhD, AGU Fellow, University of Hawaii
Cecilia Bitz, Professor, University of Washington
David Burdige, Professor and Eminent Scholar, Old Dominion University
Kerry Emanuel, Professor, MIT
Peter Frumhoff, PhD, Director of Science and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists
Richard H. Gammon, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
Catherine Gautier, Professor Emerita, University of California Santa Barbara
Charles Greene, Professor, Cornell University
James E. Hansen, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University
Charles Harvey, Professor, MIT
Roger Hooke, Research Professor, University of Maine
Mark Z. Jacobson, Professor, Stanford University
Dan Jaffe, Professor and Chair, University of Washington Bothell
Michael C. MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute
Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor, Penn State University
James J. McCarthy, Professor, Harvard University
James Murray, Professor, University of Washington
Naomi Oreskes, Professor, Harvard University
Nathan Phillips, Professor, Boston University
Christopher Rapley, CBE, Professor, University College London
Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of California San Diego
Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD Student, Harvard University
Becky Alexander, Associate Professor, University of Washington
Theodore Barnhart, PhD Student, University of Colorado/INSTAAR
Yanina Barrera, PhD Student, Harvard University
Dino Bellugi, PhD Candidate, University of California Berkeley
Jo Browse, Postdoctoral Research, University of Leeds, UK
Adam Campbell, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Otago
Chawalit Charoenpong, PhD Student, MIT/WHOI Joint Program
Sarah Crump, PhD Student, University of Colorado Boulder
Daniel Czizco, Associate Professor, MIT
Katherine Dagon, PhD Student, Harvard University
Suzane Simoes de Sá, PhD Student, Harvard University
Michael Diamond, PhD Student, University of Washington
Kyle Delwiche, PhD Student, MIT
Sarah Doherty, Associate Professor, University of Washington
Liz Drenkard, Postdoctoral Researcher, Rutgers University
Emily V. Fischer, Assistant Professor
Priya Ganguli, Postdoctoral Fellow
Gretchen Goldman, PhD, Lead Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists
Meagan Gonneea, Postdoc
Jordon Hemingway, PhD Student, MIT/WHOI Joint Program
Hannah Horowitz, PhD Student, Harvard University
Irene Hu, PhD student, MIT
Lu Hu, Postdoctoral Researcher, Harvard University
Eric Leibensperger, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Marena Lin, PhD Student, Harvard University
Simon J. Lock, PhD Student, Harvard University
Andrew McDonnell, Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Bruce Monger, Senior Lecturer, Cornell University
Daniel Ohnemus, Postdoctoral Researcher, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Morgan O’Neill, Postdoctoral Fellow, Weizmann Institute of Science
Cruz Ortiz Jr., PhD Student, University of California Santa Barbara
Jonathan Petters, Research Fellow, University of California Santa Cruz
Allison Pfeiffer, PhD Student, University of California Santa Cruz
James L. Powell, PhD
Christina M. Richardson, MS Student, University of Hawaii Manoa
Ignatius Rigor, Senior Principal Research Scientist, University of Washington
Paul Richardson, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oregon
Erica Rosenblum, PhD Student, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Ben Scandella, PhD Student, MIT
Neesha Schnepf, PhD Student, University of Colorado at Boulder/CIRES
Amos P. K. Tai, Assistant Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Robert Tardif, Research Scientist
Katherine Travis, PhD Student, Harvard University
Britta Voss, Postdoctoral Fellow
Andrew Wickert, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota
Kyle Young, Graduate Student, University of California Santa Cruz
Xu Yue, Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University
Emily Zakem, PhD Student, MIT
Cheryl Zurbrick, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT
Other concerned geoscientists:
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, CBE, Professor, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Helen Amos, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
Antara Banerjee, Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Emma Bertran, PhD Student, Harvard University
Skylar Bayer, PhD Student
Thomas Breider, Postdoctoral Researcher, Harvard University
Stella R. Brodzik, Software Engineer, University of Washington
BB Cael, PhD Student, MIT/WHOI Joint Program
Sophie Chu, PhD Student, MIT/WHOI Joint Program
Archana Dayalu, PhD Student, Harvard University
Gregory de Wet, PhD Student, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Christopher Fairless, PhD Student, University of Manchester, UK
Mara Freilich, PhD Student, MIT
Wiebke Frey, Research Associate, University of Manchester, UK
Nicolas Grisouard, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
Sydney Gunnarson, PhD Student, University of Iceland/University of Colorado Boulder
Sam Hardy, PhD Student, University of Manchester, UK
David Harning, PhD Student, University of Colorado Boulder
Sophie Haslett, PhD Student, University of Manchester, UK
Richard Hogen, Aerospace Thermodynamic Engineer, United Launch Alliance
Anjuli Jain, PhD Student, MIT
Harriet Lau, PhD Student, Harvard University
Cara Lauria, Masters Student, University of Colorado Boulder
Franziska Lechleitner, PhD Student, ETH Zürich
Michael S. Long, Research Scientist
John Marsham, Associate Professor, University of Leeds, UK
Catherine Scott, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Leeds, UK
Rohini Shivamoggi, PhD student, MIT
Victoria Smith, PhD, Instrument Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds, UK
Gail Spencer, Environmental Specialist, Washington Department of Ecology
Melissa Sulprizio, Scientific Programmer, Harvard University
Rachel White, Postdoctoral Associate, University of Washington
Leehi Yona, BA, Senior Fellow, Dartmouth College
Yanxu Zhang, Postdoctoral Researcher, Harvard University
Note: Institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement.