ExxonMobil had proof climate change was real but misled public, study finds

By Ray Downs  |  Aug. 24, 2017 at 1:46 AM
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Aug. 24 (UPI) -- A Harvard University study released Wednesday suggests ExxonMobil misled the public on climate change for years, even though the company had done its own climate change research and found the causes are man-made.

The study, conducted by Harvard researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, compared 187 climate change communications from ExxonMobil, including peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications, internal company documents and paid editorial-style advertisements in the New York Times.

It then compared the conclusions in the company's internal documents and scientific publications to its paid advertisements and found the advertisements didn't reflect what the company found through scientific research.

"For example, accounting for expressions of reasonable doubt, 83% of peer-reviewed papers and 80 percent of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12 percent of advertorials do so, with 81 percent instead expressing doubt," Supran and Oreskes wrote. "We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science - by way of its scientists' academic publications - but promoted doubt about it in advertorials. Given this discrepancy, we conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public."

The study comes at a time when ExxonMobil is under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for allegedly misleading shareholders about the causes of climate change.

"As detailed in our filings in New York court, the Attorney General's investigation of Exxon Mobil has uncovered significant evidence indicating that Exxon may have misled New York investors and consumers about the risk of climate change to the company," Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for the New York State Office of the Attorney General told CNBC.

The New York Attorney General investigation was launched after more than two-thirds of ExxonMobil shareholders voted in May for the company to be more transparent about climate change's effects and impact on the business.

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