Scientists to AGU: Drop Exxon Sponsorship. Graphic: The Natural History Museum

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]

Scientists Urge American Geophysical Union to Cut Ties With Exxon Over Climate Denial


22 February 2016

Contact: Ben Scandella, 206-276-2699,

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.



  1. The open letter is published in full at:

  1. 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:

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?

Yours respectfully,

AGU members:

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.


  1. rpauli said...

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    Ya lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  


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