One of the biggest studies to examine how climate change has been “managed” by big oil and others reveals some most interesting findings. The study looks at the hundreds of individuals and organizations funded by energy heavyweights Exxon Mobil Corp. and the Koch brothers. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reviewed 20 years of data starting in 1993 to show that climate change-denying groups and individuals who received money from Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers began to unify their messages in 2007, amplifying claimed “uncertainty” surrounding this most important issue. Dr. Justin Farrell, a Yale University sociologist and the lead study author, said:
They were writing things that were different from the contrarian organizations that did not receive corporate funding. Over time, it brought them into a more cohesive social movement and aligned their messages.
The study isn’t the first to note the influence Big Oil’s campaigns have had on the public’s perceptions of climate change. But it’s the first to look at such a large data set, Dr. Farrell said. Using computer analytics, the study looked at 4,556 individuals – including board members, politicians and researchers – with ties to 164 organizations – including think tanks, foundations and lobbying firms. Researchers examined everything the individuals wrote about climate change from 1993 to 2013 – a total of more than 40,700 texts. Those who received industry funding stood out in an alarming way. The study notes:
Two main findings emerge. First, that organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue. Second, and more importantly, that corporate funding influences the actual thematic content of these polarization efforts, and the discursive prevalence of that thematic content over time.
For example, from 2007 to 2013, those who received funding increased their discussion of the issue of energy production, the positive benefits of CO2 and questions over whether climate change is a long-term cycle. Polarizing issues that way, the study notes, “is an effective strategy for creating controversy and delaying policy progress.”
The study comes when Exxon Mobil (and for the entire U.S. oil and coal industry) is being looked at much closer on a number of fronts.
New York state has announced an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil misled investors and the public about the effects and financial implications of climate change. Hopefully, these governmental agencies that have the responsibility of regulating the oil industry will follow up on what they have learned from this important study.
Source: Huffington Post