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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kerry Emanuel: "AGU makes a mockery of its bylaw" as AGU continues to accept dirty money from ExxonMobil, even tho it is clear that Exxon promotes and disseminates misinformation of science

April 14, 2016
Contact: Ben Scandella, 206-276-2699,

World’s largest Earth science organization to continue accepting ExxonMobil sponsorship despite calls from 250+ geoscientists

Cambridge, MA Today, the President of the American Geophysical Union (AGU)  the world’s largest association of Earth scientists  announced the AGU Board’s decision to continue accepting sponsorship from ExxonMobil, despite calls for an end to this relationship from more than 250 geoscientists owing to ExxonMobil’s past and present climate science disinformation.

The AGU’s 2015 Organizational Support Policy states that “AGU will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science,” and that Organizational Partners are bodies that “share a vested interest in and commitment to advancing and communicating science and its power to ensure a sustainable future.

MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel sees the AGU’s decision as “a mockery of its own bylaw,” stating that, “If the AGU cannot turn down a mere $35K from a high-profile disinformer like Exxon, then it is hard to imagine it ever adhering to its bylaw. I am considering withdrawing from the AGU.”

Emanuel was one of the 108 geoscientists who sent an open letter to the AGU President on February 22, 2016, urging the association to end its sponsorship deal with ExxonMobil. Since then, more than 170 geoscientists worldwide have signed on. The AGU President initially responded that “The AGU Board of Directors will take up the questions raised in this letter at their upcoming meeting in April.” At this meeting, the AGU Board passed a motion approving the continuation of its “current engagement between ExxonMobil and AGU including acceptance of funding from ExxonMobil.”

In light of the AGU’s decision and reasoning, Former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Harvard Professor James J. McCarthy, another letter signatory, commented, "My jaw dropped when I read that ‘Ultimately, we concluded that it was not possible to determine conclusively whether or not ExxonMobil is currently participating in misinformation about science, either directly or indirectly.’ A new report just this week show that ExxonMobil is still spending tens of millions obstructing climate legislation. How much more is on the ‘indirect’ ledger?"

Indeed, the AGU’s decision appears to ignore the consilience of evidence demonstrating ExxonMobil’s ongoing support of climate science misinformation. Originators of the open letter submitted a report documenting ExxonMobil’s present involvement in climate misinformation for the Board’s consideration (a copy of the report is available for download here). The report provides specific examples of how ExxonMobil is “in violation of AGU’s Policy because it remains a leading sponsor of think tanks, advocacy groups, and trade associations that promote climate science misinformation. Moreover, ExxonMobil financially supports more than 100 climate-denying members of Congress and continues to generate its own misinformative comments about climate science.” Such examples include: (1) during ExxonMobil’s 2015 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson cast doubt about the reliability of climate models by remarking: “we don’t really know what the climate effects of 600 ppm versus 450 ppm [of atmospheric CO2] will be because the models simply are not that good”; (2) at the ExxonMobil-sponsored 2015 Annual Conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Stephen Moore, a member of ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Board, asserted that: “The biggest scam of the last 100 years is global warming...It’s no surprise that when you give these professors $10 billion, they’re going to find a problem.”

In addition to Emanuel and McCarthy, many other signatories of the open letter voiced their disappointment and concern over the AGU’s decision. Cornell Professor Charles Greene stated, “At what level does the behavior of a corporate sponsor become sufficiently reprehensible for AGU to refuse its support? I guess that a corporation like ExxonMobil, which has deceived the general public for decades while placing human society at great risk, has not achieved that level. The only conclusion to be drawn is that AGU will accept money from just about any corporate entity, no matter how unethical its behavior. I certainly will not attend an ExxonMobil-sponsored Fall Meeting, and I hope that every AGU member who feels the same way about this lapse in judgement will consider sending a similar message.”

What was called for was an exercise of judgment. Instead, the AGU avoided taking a principled stand by claiming it is not possible for it to make a judgement. The leadership seems prepared to accept some loss of membership, but what it may not be prepared for is the redoubled commitment of members who won't relent in shining an even brighter light on the inconsistency of the AGU's mission of a sustainable planetary future with its endorsement of ExxonMobil's past and current activities,” said Nathan Phillips, Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University.

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