ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM) gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in a coordinated effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted Wednesday.
The report by the science-based nonprofit advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain's leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change."
ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the scientific advocacy group's report.
Many scientists say accumulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks are warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse, melting Arctic sea ice, alpine glaciers and disturbing the lives of animals and plants.
ExxonMobil lists on its Web site nearly $133 million in 2005 contributions globally, including $6.8 million for "public information and policy research" distributed to more than 140 think-tanks, universities, foundations, associations and other groups. Some of those have publicly disputed the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
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But in September, the company said in response to the Royal Society that it funded groups which research "significant policy issues and promote informed discussion on issues of direct relevance to the company." It said the groups do not speak for the company.
Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or cherry-picking facts.
Dr. James McCarthy, a professor at Harvard University, said the company has sought to "create the illusion of a vigorous debate" about global warming.