Top Climate Science Conference Sponsored By Top Climate Polluters

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 28 Dec 2013 19:55:00 GMT

AGU, Sponsored By ExxonThe annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the top meeting of the world’s climate science community, enjoys the “generous support” of the world’s largest greenhouse polluters, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP. The AGU’s annual meeting in San Francisco each December is the world’s largest gathering of earth scientists, at more than 20,000 attendees, ranging from physical climatologists to petroleum geologists. This December 9-13, AGU’s sponsors were prominently displayed on its website and on posters in the conference halls with the headline, “Thank You To Our Sponsors”:

AGU would like to take the time to recognize the generous support from all of the sponsors of the 2013 Fall Meeting and the events at the meeting.

The top sponsor credited was ExxonMobil; second-tier sponsors included BP, Chevron, and drilling services giant Schlumberger.

The prominent “thank you” given to the companies that profit from the disruption of our climate system received condemnation from some public commenters.

“Nausea-inducing greenwashing: Pukewashing,” tweeted climate and energy blogger Lou Grinzo.

“The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling,” wrote geology student Ryan Brown.

The union recognizes that the sponsorship is designed to influence its attendees; in promotional materials AGU says sponsorship will “build your brand and create [a] positive link in the attendees’ minds” and “recruit new scientists, enhance your corporate image, show support, and raise your visibility among the scientific community.”

In August 2013, AGU declared that “human-induced climate change requires urgent action.” The AGU Climate Change Position Statement clearly implicates “fossil fuel burning” as the dominant factor in “threats to public health, water availability, agricultural productivity (particularly in low‐latitude developing countries), and coastal infrastructure,” and “no uncertainties are known that could make the impacts of climate change inconsequential.”

The statement was developed by a 14-person panel chaired by Texas A&M climatologist Gerald North. Thirteen of the 14 members voted to approve the strong statement; famous climate skeptic Roger Pielke Sr. dissented. (Pielke’s son, Roger Pielke Jr., is a political scientist who argues as a pundit that climate change does not require societal action.)

Hill Heat sent email messages to the members of the AGU panel asking if they had concerns about AGU accepting funding from the fossil-fuel industry, including companies that have an extensive history of funding attacks on climate science and political opposition to the regulation of carbon emissions.

“Frankly, I have never thought about this,” Dr. North, the panel chair, replied. He noted that many AGU scientists are employed by the extractive industries, and said he would be concerned only if he had seen the AGU’s work being corrupted by fossil-fuel money:

Many AGU members work in the oil and gas industries as well as the coal industry. I suppose the AGU could be corrupted by these elements, although I have no evidence (that I know of) of this having happened in the past. AGU Committees I have served on have shown no evidence of nefarious inputs or pressures. Usually, the first meeting of an AGU Committee there is a conflict of interest session in which all tell of any matters that might be construed as a conflict of interest. This was the case with the Committee I chaired.

“So far I have no reason to object to these contributions so long as AGU Committees can operate without interference,” Dr. North continued. “It’s a little like universities taking such donations. For example, my university Texas A&M accepts many contributions from them and I have never felt any pressure from any university official or Texas government official. There has to be a ‘wall’ of separation between donors and what is done with their money. For example, at the University donors of endowed chairs have no say in who the chair goes to.”

Fellow panelist Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., related a similar sentiment to Hill Heat.

“Fossil fuels exist and will continue to do so,” Trenberth wrote. “Many of the companies have diversified into other areas of energy. So that alone is not a reason for inappropriateness. In addition a big part of AGU is geophysics and geology. Several companies have also declared that they have good intentions and no longer fund mis-information. I am not sure how well that bears up to scrutiny. But in general, yes, AGU should accept funding from the fossil fuel industry, as long as it has no strings attached. And they can use the funds to push back if warranted.”

Sylvia Tognetti, an environmental science and policy consultant who is not an AGU member, told Hill Heat she does not believe it is appropriate to AGU to accept fossil-fuel industry sponsorship. “I expect that a campaign on this issue would be a difficult one, given the schizophrenic relationship that exists between science and policy,” she wrote in an e-mail. “But bringing attention to these contradictions might just provoke an important dialogue on the role of science for the public good.”

According the AGU Fall Meeting Sponsorship Prospectus, “Sponsorship at the AGU Fall Meeting is a cost-effective way of branding your company, your products, and your services to more than 20,000 geophysical and space scientists.” The prospectus notes that “Sponsorship can increase your corporate/product awareness, build your brand, and create positive link in the attendees’ minds between you and an activity in support of their science.” The top “gold” sponsorship level costs a minimum of $15,000.

In the 2012 Fall Meeting Sponsorship Prospectus, AGU says that Chevron and Exxon Mobil are companies which “realize the benefit of sponsorship with the AGU,” as a “cost effective, high profile tool your company can use to recruit new scientists, enhance your corporate image, show support, and raise your visibility among the scientific community.”

The AGU conference also advised climate scientists on effective communication, with presentations such as “400ppm CO2 : Communicating Climate Science Effectively with Naomi Oreskes and multiple presentations by John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky, Susan Hassol, and Dana Nuccitelli.

ExxonMobil Continues Funding Global Warming Denial Groups Despite Repeated Pledges to Stop

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 03 Jul 2009 13:22:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

exxonFrom 1998 to 2005, ExxonMobil directed almost $16 million to a group of 43 lobby groups in an effort to confuse Americans about global warming. After being criticized by the Royal Society in 2006, Exxon promised to end funding to groups questioning climate change. In May 2008, Exxon again issued a public mea culpa and pledged to cut funding to groups that “divert attention” from the need to develop and invest in clean energy. Yet, in 2008, while cutting contributions to the most extreme groups, Exxon still funded the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, all groups which publicly question or deny global warming:

Company records for 2008 show that ExxonMobil gave $75,000 (£45,500) to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas and $50,000 (£30,551) to the Heritage Foundation in Washington. It also gave $245,000 (£149,702) to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington. The list of donations in the company’s 2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community investments is likely to trigger further anger from environmental activists, who have accused ExxonMobil of giving tens of millions to climate change sceptics in the past decade.

Exxon’s continued duplicity should come as no surprise. Just as ExxonMobil makes public promises to end funding to groups that work to deny climate change, it also has devoted millions to ad campaigns touting clean energy without actually investing significantly in renewable energy. In 2007, Exxon-Mobil spent $100 million on advertising and “green-washing” campaigns in an attempt to exaggerate their commitment to renewable energy, producing ads that focused on global warming, efficiency, and alternative energy. That’s despite the fact that ExxonMobil spent more on CEO Rex Tillerson’s salary than on renewable energy in 2007. While Tillerson took in $21.7 million, Exxon invested only $10 million or so in renewable energy – just a tenth of the amount they spent talking about investing in clean energy.

Exxon is staffed by and supports those who deny the most basic facts of climate change and global warming. In June 2005, White House official Philip Cooney had to resign from Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality after being caught altering documents to hide links between fossil fuels and global warming. ExxonMobil waited only three days to hire him. In fact, ExxonMobil didn’t admit that global warming is occurring until 2007.

This latest evidence of Exxon’s continued opposition to clean energy comes less than a month after the American Petroleum Institute released a report revealing just how little the top Big Oil companies invest in renewable energy.

ExxonMobil Stands to Profit Handsomely in International Carbon Markets

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 20 Feb 2008 00:38:00 GMT

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest company by both revenue and market capitalization, has a place on the world stage comparable to a major nation-state (only 23 nations in 2006 had a GDP greater than Exxon’s revenues of $347 billion, which rose 7% in 2007). Only 31 nations exceeded its annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2004 [UN MDG indicators, ExxonMobil CDP response]. If end-use emissions of ExxonMobil’s products are included, its carbon footprint of 1 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent is exceeded only by five nations.

David Sassoon at Solve Climate asked Mario Lopez-Alcala, a senior analyst with Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, to estimate how the Kyoto Protocol impacts the company. Lopez-Alcala made some counter-intuitive discoveries.
Turns out that under Kyoto, Exxon is responsible for abating only 9 million out of the 138 million tons of its carbon footprint—about 6.9% of its absolute exposure. Mario arrived at this figure by compiling a weighted average of the emissions targets affecting all Exxon operations around the world. His estimate for what it costs Exxon to abate those emissions, assuming it had to purchase carbon credits? About $1 billion a year. (He calculated net present value for the 2008-2012 Kyoto compliance period and applied a standard oil industry discount rate to arrive at the figure, based on an expected price of $28 per ton of carbon. He also had to add in to the calculation, abatement costs for reducing emissions to a baseline year.)

$1 billion annually is not a terribly large liability for a $400 billion company.

There’s also another aspect to Exxon’s carbon footprint: the 129 million tons of emissions that it is not required to reduce. It is an enormous carbon asset in a world in which carbon has a price, and it presents a tangible opportunity for enhancing profitability – even beyond $40.6 billion. By reducing those emissions – most simply through reduced flaring, co-generation, heat recuperation, and carbon capture and sequestration – Exxon could reap profits from selling carbon credits it generates. Mario reports that BP is the leader in the sector in taking advantage of these opportunities, which are tangible and positive already.

Sassoon concludes that from an investor (as well as moral) standpoint, ExxonMobil’s storied resistance to the science of climate change is a poor corporate position.

Shareholders Pressure Exxon on Global Warming

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 14 Aug 2007 17:32:00 GMT

In Resolved: Public Corporations Shall Take Us Seriously, the New York Times Magazine describes the rising tide of shareholder resolutions on climate change against ExxonMobil:
The ring tone on Sister Patricia Daly’s cellphone is the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah,” which makes every call sound as if it’s coming from God. On the particular May afternoon, however, David Henry, who handles investor relations for the ExxonMobil Corporation, was on the line. Henry wanted to know if Daly planned to attend the annual shareholder meeting later that month — a rhetorical question, really, since Daly had been at every one of them for the past 10 years. At each she posed roughly the same question: What is ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, planning to do about global warming?

The article makes reference to Citigroup’s influential climate change investment report from the beginning of the year, Climatic Consequences: Investment Implications of a Changing Climate, and the May 2007 Greenpeace report ExxonMobil’s Continued Funding of Global Warming Denial Industry.

Further excerpts:
Yet global warming does seem to be an area in which social and fiscal concerns overlap. Recent reports by Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Lehman Brothers have reinforced the notion that climate change has the potential to affect a company’s bottom line, and shareholder resolutions have been remarkably effective at getting companies to take global warming seriously. After the Connecticut state treasurer’s office filed three consecutive climate resolutions with American Electric Power, the nation’s single-largest producer of carbon dioxide, the company agreed in 2004 to study the impact on its operations of various carbon cap-and-trade proposals, whereby companies must either limit their carbon emissions or purchase emissions credits from other companies that pollute less. Today American Electric is one of the companies calling for mandatory carbon constraints. Other companies singled out by shareholder activists, like Home Depot, Ford, Prudential, Cinergy, Chevron Texaco, Apache and ConocoPhillips, have variously agreed to disclose their greenhouse-gas emissions, study the impact of climate change on their businesses, invest in renewable energy sources or support a mandatory carbon cap.

The exception, as Daly notes, is ExxonMobil. For years the company denied that global climate change was occurring. According to a Greenpeace report in May, ExxonMobil funnels more than $2 million a year to groups that dispute the reality of global warming. The company’s current C.E.O., Rex Tillerson, made headlines in February when he admitted that the risks from climate change “could prove to be significant,” but he continues to emphasize the uncertainty of the science. In May he said: “I know people like to boil it down to something very simple — the polar ice caps are melting, the planet is seven-tenths of a degree centigrade warmer. It’s really not that simple of an equation.” And while BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips have joined the United States Climate Action Partnership, which is lobbying for mandatory carbon limits, and are investing in renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biofuels, ExxonMobil remains coy about which, if any, carbon constraints it would support and has stated unequivocally that the company will not be putting money into renewables.