What is it about?

A 2017 article examined the misleading public communications by the ExxonMobil Corporations about anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the overarching message of which seemed to be that climate change was a hoax and not caused by humans. To strengthen their conclusions, the authors of the article conducted a new study to analyse additional advertorials and peer-reviewed/non-peer-reviewed articles published by ExxonMobil, which were not included in their previous study. The authors made a timeline of the documents and categorised them as “relevant” or “irrelevant” to AGW. Most of the advertorials conveyed 'doubts' about climate change being real, which was consistent with their earlier findings. Most peer-reviewed studies, on the other hand, “acknowledged” it as human-caused and of major concern. Convincingly, the advertorials, which have a much larger audience than research articles, disregarded the facts on climate change.

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Why is it important?

The authors identified significant inconsistencies in the company’s approaches to explain climate change. In the first place, it was clear that the “doubts” were not unintentional but rather part of ExxonMobil’s communication strategy. Ironically, the company published research articles and advertorials in the same year that contradicted each other. Second, while financing several environmental research initiatives and projects, ExxonMobil flatly rejected the sole ‘idea’ that drove these funding activities – climate change. Third, the company strategically put forth the notion that it had not undermined the authenticity of climate change. Indeed, the contradiction between what the firm actually knew, and its history of justifying climate science refute is an essential argument in many lines of investigations into the actions of the company. KEY TAKEAWAY: The evidence gathered by the study supported the argument that ExxonMobil spread inaccurate information about climate change through public communications.

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This page is a summary of: Addendum to ‘Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014)’ Supran and Oreskes (2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 084019), Environmental Research Letters, October 2020, Institute of Physics Publishing, DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab89d5.
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