Climate Denier Funding: Where Exxon Left Off, Coal and Others Take Over

Last Updated Jul 5, 2011 9:34 AM EDT

ExxonMobil (XOM), once a leading funder of climate change deniers, has cut its financial support considerably after promising shareholders back in 2008 it would end the practice. That's swell. But two niggling details in a recent report from Greenpeace suggest we shouldn't celebrate too quickly:
  • Exxon kept giving money after 2008, albeit at considerably reduced rates;
  • Others including coal company Southern Co., and the owners of conglomerate Koch Industries have picked up the slack where the oil company left off.
The Greenpeace report focused on the funding of Wei Hock "Willie" Soon, an astrophysicist who has been a critic of climate science and has researched whether solar variance might be responsible global warming. The report, which was based on documents obtained by Greenpeace via a Freedom of Information Act request, found that since 2002, every new grant that Soon received has been either from oil or coal interests.

Exxon pledged to quit climate change deniers several years ago. And the company has made progress. But it hasn't stopped altogether, according to Greepeace's documents. Exxon gave $76,106 between 2008 and 2010 for a solar variability study. Soon has pushed a theory that changes in the amount of radiation coming from the sun are to blame for rising temperatures. The oil company gave $265,000 to Soon between 2005 and 2008.

Unsurprisingly, Exxon fired back and accused Greenpeace of "peddling this discredited conspiracy theory" about its support for climate deniers, Mother Jones reported. The company maintains it stopped funding Soon's work in 2009. So, Exxon has admitted that it was funding climate change deniers after its 2008 promise, but now wants everyone to believe that this time it really has stopped. Curious.

Meanwhile, Southern Co., the American Petroleum Institute and the Charles G. Koch Foundation have continued their financial support. Southern Co., which is new to the list of "known" funders, gave two grants. One for $110,000 in 2005 to 2006 was to study Arctic climate change, and another $120,000 in 2008-09 was for solar variability and climate change signals from temperature.

Photo from Flickr user Señor Coda , CC 2.0