Corporate deception in the fossil fuel industry threatens all life by denying climate change

DOCUMENTING FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES’ CLIMATE DECEPTION
Jul 15, 2015 by Casey Coates Danson
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Catalyst Summer 2015
Climate denier dossiers
Leaked internal memos reveal a coordinated, decades-long disinformation campaign.
by Elliott Negin
When internal documents revealed earlier this year that ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel interests were secretly funding scientifically discredited studies authored by climate contrarian Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, the news didn’t come as a complete surprise.
Back in 2007, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report identified Soon—an aerospace engineer with little formal training in climatology—as one of a dozen scientists affiliated with more than 40 ExxonMobil-funded think tanks that then constituted the backbone of the climate change–denier PR machine. Soon, who erroneously claims the sun is largely responsible for global warming, produced work for at least five of these ExxonMobil-backed groups, including the now infamous Heartland Institute.
But the latest cache of documents, obtained by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, lays bare a wealth of detail that was not available eight years ago. For example, they show that Soon received his funding exclusively from fossil fuel interests, including ExxonMobil, utility giant Southern Company, and Charles Koch. He described his scientific work and congressional testimony as “deliverables” to his funders. And some of his contracts specifically dictate that the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where Soon works, not disclose the names of his funders. These internal documents, on top of what UCS had already uncovered, indisputably establish Soon’s efforts as part of a calculated climate deception campaign.
Dossiers of Deception
Willie Soon, however, is just a small part of a much bigger story, according to a new UCS report, The Climate Deception Dossiers. After spending nearly a year reviewing and analyzing a wide range of internal corporate and trade group documents, a team of UCS researchers has, for the first time, compiled a broader tale of climate deception. The Climate Deception Dossiers draws upon evidence culled from 85 documents that were pried loose by leaks, lawsuits, and FOIA requests.
Spanning nearly three decades, these documents reveal that the world’s largest fossil fuel companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, coal giant Peabody Energy, and Shell—were fully aware of the reality of climate change but continued to spend tens of millions of dollars to sow doubt and promote contrarian arguments they knew to be wrong. Taken together, the documents show that these six companies, in conjunction with the American Petroleum Institute (API)—the oil and gas industry’s premier trade association—and a host of front groups, have colluded to intentionally deceive the public; their corporate officials have known for at least two decades that their products are harmful; and their disinformation campaign continues today—despite the fact that most of the companies now publicly acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change.

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