Friday, January 5, 2007

ExxonMobil Spreads Doubt about Global Warming

Sci-Tech Today - 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 any link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

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 emphasizing only selected 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.

The company said its financial support doesn't mean control over any group's views.

I'm not surprised, are you?

This reminds me of an article I read in Scientific American in the summer of 2005, at the height of the Burlington Board of Health's discussion surrounding the continuation of water fluoridation in Burlington. The Vermont Department of Health representatives and local members of a dental industry group criticised the scientific evidence against fluoride provided by by Fluoride Action Network.

The quote below from Doubt Is Their Product (David Michaels, Scientific American, June 2005) is equally apt for the questionable practises of ExxonMobil:

Uncertainty is an inherent problem of science, but manufactured uncertainty is another matter entirely. Over the past three decades, industry groups have frequently become involved in the investigative process when their interests are threatened. If, for example, studies show that a company is exposing its workers to dangerous levels of a certain chemical, the business typically responds by hiring its own researchers to cast doubt on the studies. Or if a pharmaceutical firm faces questions about the safety of one of its drugs, its executives trumpet company-sponsored trials that show no significant health risks while ignoring or hiding other studies that are much less reassuring. The vilification of threatening research as "junk science" and the corresponding sanctification of industry-commissioned research as "sound science" has become nothing less than standard operating procedure in some parts of corporate America.

Scientific American has the complete article for a price, but why give the magazine your money?. I suggest you go to your local library to read an archival copy of that issue. It's an eye-opening article.

Related link: Union of Concerned Scientists

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