Britain's leading scientific academy has accused oil company Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) of misleading the public about global warming and funding groups that undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.

The Royal Society said Wednesday that it had written to Exxon asking it to halt support for groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change."

The Sept. 4 letter was sent to Esso U.K., Exxon's British arm, by the society's official spokesman, Bob Ward.

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The letter said Exxon had given $2.9 million to 39 groups that "have been misinforming the public about the science of climate change."

The groups — among more than 50 listed on Exxon's Web site as receiving funding for "public information and policy research" — include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy group based in Washington, and the Tempe, Ariz.-based Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, which Ward said disputes the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

"It's bizarre that a company like ExxonMobil should be funding an organization that so clearly is putting out information that is at odds with the opinion of the scientific community," Ward told The Associated Press.

ExxonMobil confirmed it had received the letter.

In a statement, the company said it funded "organizations which research significant policy issues and promote informed discussion on issues of direct relevance to the company."

"These organizations do not speak on our behalf, nor do we control their views and messages," it added.

ExxonMobil said its reports "explain our views openly and honestly on climate change." The company said it accepted that carbon dioxide emissions were "one of the contributing factors to climate change."

Founded in 1660, the Royal Society is Britain's leading academy of scientists, and counts Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein among its past members.