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Earth Science Technology

Scientists Urge American Geophysical Union To Cut Ties With Exxon (insideclimatenews.org) 231

mdsolar writes: More than 100 geoscientists are calling on the American Geophysical Union to drop ExxonMobil as a sponsor of its annual earth science conference in response to the company's years of spreading climate denial views. The call appeared in an open letter posted Monday morning on a science website called The Natural History Museum. The oil giant Exxon has a history of funding organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation and try to thwart policies that address climate change (in direct conflict with the earth science association's mission and funding policies), the scientists said in their letter to Margaret Leinen, president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). "AGU has established a long history of scientific excellence with its peer-reviewed publications and conferences, as well as a strong position statement on the urgency of climate action," the letter said. "But by allowing Exxon to appropriate AGU's institutional social license to help legitimize the company's climate misinformation, AGU is undermining its stated values as well as the work of its own members," it added.
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Scientists Urge American Geophysical Union To Cut Ties With Exxon

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    As I understood it, although they gave millions to groups trying to cast doubt on climate science in the 1990s and early 2000s, Exxon had stopped funding such political groups in 2008 (although they still contribute to political campaigns of congressmen who are opposed to climate science.)
    It might be more worthwhile to be outraged about the fossil fuel companies who are still funding them.

    • by edibobb ( 113989 )
      Maybe their activities lasted a little longer than 2008: "Just last year, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson downplayed the validity of climate models and the value of renewable energy policies."
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ganjadude ( 952775 )
        not sure there is anything to argue with there. The validity of the climate studies should always be in question (and no, science is never settled) and the value of giving someone 5-15 thousand dollars to buy a 50 thousand dollar car from our tax money is something to question
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That's equivocation. When somebody says the validity of scientific models should always be in question, that doesn't imply you should treat all scientific conclusions as coin tosses. If you conclude there's a 97% chance of global average temperature increases at an unprecedented rate, you don't point hide out in the 3% because it's convenient to your argument.

          Likewise, the value of subsidies to cars running on alternative fuels is valid to question, but the statement was that he downplayed the value of re

          • im making the argument based on the previous posters claim. im only making an argument that the things he stated do not equal what he thinks they do
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's no better way to promote science than call someone names and basically tell them to STFU?

    How is that different from calling ExxonMobil "heretics"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by patabongo ( 842730 )

      The Inquisition didn't deal with Galileo by refusing to let him sponsor their conference.

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        No. The Inquisition dealt with him by paying his pension until his death.
      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        The example you're thinking of is Bruno of Nolan. They did coerce Galileo into silence, but Bruno is the one they burned. (Odd, really, when Galileo actually published a book about his theory which included a satirical dialog where there was a character who was obviously the Pope and who was named (after translation) Idiot.

        • "They did coerce Galileo into silence, but Bruno is the one they burned"

          Yes, but they didn't burn him because anything related to astronomy but because of theological disputes so, what's point about anything science-related, again?

    • Same mentality. Disagree with someone? Do whatever you can to suppress their speech.
      • by rockout ( 1039072 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:06PM (#51561829)

        At some point, you have to look at the motivations that each party has for their "speech." ExxonMobil has a huge vested interest in downplaying the role that burning oil has in accelerating climate change.

        Suppressing their speech? When they have billions at their disposal to continue lying to the public? That's a laugh.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by rickb928 ( 945187 )

          ExxonMobil also has a huge vested interest in refuting any false role that burning oil has in accelerating climate change.

          The disagreement can only be on whether the premise, that fossil fuels are in fact accelerating climate change, is correct. If no, shame on the majority fo scientists that have been convinced in error.

          And the raw data is not at all convincing to me any more. Feel free to continue to toe the party line and claim it is not so, but a cursory examination of the media shows that several cli

          • by slashping ( 2674483 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:52PM (#51562269)
            Go ahead and show us better data. I'm sure Exxon can fund the search. After all, they have a huge vested interested in refuting the data you claim is bad.
          • by Sique ( 173459 )
            Please explain what you mean with "manipulating" data. We all know that every method of measurement has a systematic bias. And we have to deal with that fact, and we do it by trying to determine the systematical bias and subtract it from the data. If that's "manipulating data" to you, then please elaborate a better way to deal with it.

            When I learned laboratory work, one of the most important tasks was the "discussion of methods" in each protocol for each experiment, where you had to look at each measureme

            • Please explain what you mean with "manipulating" data. We all know that every method of measurement has a systematic bias. And we have to deal with that fact, and we do it by trying to determine the systematical bias and subtract it from the data. If that's "manipulating data" to you, then please elaborate a better way to deal with it.

              A practical example is the shift from mercury thermometers that were read by hand at certain times in the day to electronic thermometers that were logged continuously. The change in thermometers and measuring moments resulted in a sudden small jump in the temperature record. Climate scientists identify these sudden jumps, and add an adjustment to compensate for them. To some people that may sound like "manipulation", but in reality it's error reduction. The original raw data, all the changes, as well as the

          • ExxonMobil also has a huge vested interest in refuting any false role that burning oil has in accelerating climate change.

            The disagreement can only be on whether the premise, that fossil fuels are in fact accelerating climate change, is correct. If no, shame on the majority fo scientists that have been convinced in error.

            Exxon first heard about the issue from their own scientists nearly 40 years ago in 1977: [scientificamerican.com]

            ... the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today.

            Since then the science has only strengthened and no one has come up with anything that explains the accelerated warming better than carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

        • At some point you need to learn how to reason for yourself.

        • That's how much was spent in 2014 by the feds. [whitehouse.gov]

          That's a lot of vest interest in showing that AGW is real and needs more research dollars.

          • Re:$21.4 BIllion (Score:4, Informative)

            by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @11:46PM (#51564513)

            So I went and looked at the report you cited. They split the expenditures into 5 categories:

            1) Scientific research into climate change, about $2.5 billion.
            2) Clean energy technologies, about $6 billion.
            3) International assistance, about $0.9 billion.
            4) Natural resource adaption, about $0.09 billion.
            5) Energy tax provisions that may reduce GHG emissions and energy payments in lieu of tax provisions, about $10 billion.

            So direct climate research is only about 11.6% of the total expenditures and by far the biggest chunk is tax provisions that aren't actually expenditures but just reduce the taxes collected.

            Regarding the tax provisions and other breaks fossil fuel producers get plenty of that sort of support as well. For example coal mines that pay less than $5/ton for coal mined on government lands that they can sell to China for around $50/ton.

      • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:44PM (#51562211) Homepage

        Same mentality. Disagree with someone? Do whatever you can to suppress their speech.

        Except it's the opposite: this is more like Disagree with someone? Stop taking their money.

        Do keep in mind that the groups Exxon had been funding weren't doing climate science-- those groups, as it turns out, actually were agreeing with the consensus on global warming (until Exxon stopped funding them). The groups the geoscientists are complaining about Exxon spending a hundred million dollars to support were ones that were making political points by calling climate scientists "frauds", saying climate science is a "scam", the conclusions were "a hoax," and climate scientists "need to be sent to prison."

        "Stop accepting money from an organization that pays people to denigrate your work" seems like a reasonable decision to me.

        • Do keep in mind that the groups Exxon had been funding weren't doing climate science

          That is not entirely true. For instance, Exxon funds the American Geophysical Union, whose members do legitimate climate science.

          • Do keep in mind that the groups Exxon had been funding weren't doing climate science

            That is not entirely true. For instance, Exxon funds the American Geophysical Union, whose members do legitimate climate science.

            The AGU is a professional organization, not a research organization. The funds they collect (including those from Exxon) are used to manage publications, conferences, and other services for their members. They're not used to fund research.

      • This is one of the more strange interpretations of freeze peach I've heard recently.

        A groupt of people saying that the AGU should cut ties with Exxon is apparently bad because it infringes Exxon's free speech?

        Da fuq?

        Free speech is not "say whatever the hell you want and no one's allowed to criticise you".

        • "Free speech is not "say whatever the hell you want and no one's allowed to criticise you"."

          You've skipped over about five years of history. These days free speech, like religious freedom, means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

        • Free speech is not "say whatever the hell you want and no one's allowed to criticise you".

          Tell that to the Social Injustice Enthusiasts :-P

      • How is this suppressing anyone's speech? Seriously? This is mostly saying "if someone is spouting junk science, don't feature them in a science conference". Folks would be just as unhappy if flat-earth folks wanted to sponser the conference, and for the same good reasons.

    • They are just proposing to cut the financial ties. Exxon can of course continue to produce as much peer reviewed science articles as they have before.
  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @04:53PM (#51561691)

    It's not like Exxon is trying to stifle the American Geophysical Union by sponsoring their event.

    The geoscientists are really making themselves look bad by doing this.

    • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:00PM (#51561769)

      It's not like Exxon is trying to stifle the American Geophysical Union by sponsoring their event.

      The geoscientists are really making themselves look bad by doing this.

      They are attempting to have some principles regarding where they get funding - if they can't demonstrate their ability to function without Exxon funding, it calls into question whether or not Exxon has influence over their publications.

      It's a political statement - since they have no problem calling out climate change as real, it's kind of ridiculous to say that Exxon is making them take a biased stand on that, but what other important issues (fracking, for instance) might be better investigated without corporate funding pressures?

      Better to do good science with "clean" funding than questionable science with twice as much money.

      • More than that (Score:5, Informative)

        by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:22PM (#51562003) Homepage Journal
        Exxon studied the science, found it to be persuasive, even raising rigs to adapt to sea level rise, but lied about the science to the public for years. http://insideclimatenews.org/c... [insideclimatenews.org]
      • by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <rgbNO@SPAMphy.duke.edu> on Monday February 22, 2016 @06:14PM (#51562455) Homepage

        Hmmm, so by the same token, we must conclude that e.g. the NSF can be called into question as to whether or not they have influence of the publications of the scientists they support, the NIH over the ones THEY support, the DOE over the projects they support, etc etc. Because the only funding that is clean is the funding you earned yourself doing unrelated work.

        Once upon a time, the "ideal" ivory tower model of the University was that you banded together with a bunch of other academics, taught classes, and used the resulting income stream to support your life and your research. The whole concept of tenure was built on the notion that once you passed through a review process designed to first and foremost guarantee that you could teach classes at the University level and not be an embarrassment or drive off students, you ought to be free to pursue whatever research you liked and publish whatever you found without fear of political or economic repercussions in the event that your results were not politically correct or disagreed with the conclusions of some Famous Filosopher who preceded you.

        To some extent, this model existed and persisted in both the United States and Europe up through the end of World War II. Then Big Science was born along with the nuclear bomb, and Big Medicine followed in Big Science's footsteps almost immediately. The government started funding more and more research at the University level, initially in nuclear physics (which simply required a lot of money to do at all), then in general physics, chemistry, medicine, all at an ever increasing pace. It rapidly got to the point where one simply could not get a tenured position at any University in the US without demonstrating an ability not to teach, not to "do research", but to obtain grants through a cycle of application and renewal through at least a couple of three to five year grant cycles. And this in turn, absolutely relied on doing research that had No Null Results. Null results meant No Tenure For You, it meant being put out onto the street and falling back on a small position at a teaching college or selling cars -- if you were in any sort of science department at first, then increasingly in other departments or areas of knowledge.

        It also meant that your academic career was completely at the mercy of the granting agencies even AFTER getting tenure. Sure, supersymmetry or string theory or whatever the fad of the day is are popular this year, but after a decade of results null or otherwise, the funding dries up as new directives from on high arrive as to what we the people "need" to stimulate. Even tenured professors have to shift disciplines into whatever the latest rage is or risk being marginalized, given a broom closet for an office, being gently asked to leave (pretty please) to make room for an aggressive young researcher more willing to be blown by the winds of Popular science.

        So speak to me not about clean, pure money, at least not with the implication that government money is somehow "good" but corporate money is "bad" because the corporations influence the direction of your work but the government (agencies) do no not. The current system of funding absolutely guarantees that a truly substantial fraction of University research is just confirmation bias at work, getting non-null results in precisely the sweet spot of what the granting agencies want to fund in order to perpetuate one's funding. It is also a mistake to imply that just because a large, august body of "objective" scientists whose work is clearly disconnected from any politically or economically sensitive conclusion all agree on a consensus view of some "truth" that that truth is actually true. Counterexamples exist in abundance, the latest one being that dietary cholesterol, instead of being (as the consensus view held it in countless publications all supposedly supported by objective research) Satan Himself attempting to destroy your heart and soul with plaque, is mostly irrelevant to heart disea

        • but corporate money is "bad"

          No, but Exxon has funded enough anti-science groups that their motives are shown to be bad.

        • Hit much of a nerve?

          Anyway, in the 1970s I would have considered lung cancer studies funded by RJReynolds to be suspect, similarly lead studies from paint and fuel companies back then - if you are a research scientist and your entire income is derived from grants given by a parties with clear vested interests in the outcome of your research you can never clear the conflict of interest - the best you can hope for is to publish your methods and your findings and maybe get validation from the community that is

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            It's not actually about research.
            It's about funding speaking tours of non-experts and paying for PR pieces.

            Can't get a scientist to push your line? No problem - find an economist who hasn't even published any economic papers and a guy the composes sudoko puzzles for newspapers to push your line.
            • There are varying degrees of sophistication in readership... most good M.D.s won't look twice at research unless it's in a respected journal, by people with some credibility in the field, and they'll at least try to sniff the obvious sources for conflict of interest information. Good scientists in other fields are mostly the same. But, I worked for one medical device manufacturer who managed to get a collection of over a dozen studies done on their device, published in the most recognized journals, and wi

        • Does this mean all research (most of which is government funded) is crap? No, only that our society and our modern mechanism for funding research is chock full of biases. There is no font of ivory-tower-pure money that permits properly indifferent scientists to pursue their hypotheses and publish what they find, even if what they find is "nothing interesting". Does it mean that the boldly stated "settled science" that is sold as climate science is wrong? Not at all. It is just a long ways from being proven right, especially when it is a long way from even being uniform in its conclusions and while there is substantial disagreement between many of its conclusions and observational reality. And it is beyond any doubt that all of the conditions for the corruption of science are present in the government funding of climate science -- it is sold as Pascal's Wager, so that there is no price that is too big to pay, no work that is too small to contribute to selling the political and economic aspects of the current story to a skeptical public (and a rather large number of skeptical scientists who know better than to trust even the most boldly stated of consensus-view truth).

          The problem I have with this is that the natural world that science studies is incorruptible. It is what it is and there is nothing humans can do to change it. Any scientist worthy of being called a scientist knows that and while they may let their biases put some spin on something it just boggles the mind to think that they would purposely publish something they know to be wrong. The best way to make your name in science is to overturn some previous paradigm and advance the field in an unexpected way.

      • They are attempting to have some principles regarding where they get funding

        No, they are abandoning their principles. Money should never be tied to a priori viewpoints, or accepting the consensus as "fact". This is about science, not religion.

    • The geoscientists are really making themselves look bad by doing this

      It's 100 people out of 64,000 members. Maybe they'll start a movement to pressure the union but right now, it's just that: a start.

    • by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:42PM (#51562197) Homepage Journal
      Exxon hires geologists, so they are getting something from their sponsorship: advertising.
      • If you want to find oil, you hire geologists.

        There's one company that claims they will find oil by biblical guidance, Zion Oil & Gas. They somehow managed to dupe investors to keep funding them for a decade as they drilled where the bible told them to and found absolutely no oil at all. There's some debate if the company is run by a true believer, or if the whole thing is just a big scam - probably a pump-and-dump stock market manipulation. Either way: No geologists, no oil.

    • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

      In regards to geophysics specifically the oil and gas industry has always led the science in that field for decades. Almost the entire geophysical field was developed by oil and gas companies to find and map oil fields. Its pretty disengenuous to snub the largest contributor to a field science over a politial issue in a tangential scientific field.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2016 @04:58PM (#51561741)

    Freeman Dyson doesn't believe human activity is causing global climate change, nor does he believe a changing climate is necessarily harmful. Historically, warmer times have been better times.

    "Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

    If Freeman Dyson says your maths are rubbish -- They are.

    • by s122604 ( 1018036 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:04PM (#51561813)
      well that sonofabitch should stick to making overpriced vacuum cleaners
    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      nor does he believe a changing climate is necessarily harmful.

      it's not harmful unless you live someplace that will get hammered with a Sandy class hurricane more frequently.

      • move to higher ground. If countries like Bangladesh have taught us anything it's that living close to sea level isn't a good thing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Freeman Dyson doesn't believe human activity is causing global climate change, nor does he believe a changing climate is necessarily harmful. Historically, warmer times have been better times.

      "Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

      If Freeman Dyson says your maths are rubbish -- They are.

      You need to read up on what he's said in the past 10 years, and how the IPCC has been iterating on the process. Because your shit is out of date.

    • by Cl1mh4224rd ( 265427 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @07:24PM (#51562933)

      Freeman Dyson doesn't believe human activity is causing global climate change...

      This is incorrect. Here's Wikipedia summary [wikipedia.org], but here are some choice quotes

      'One of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas.' (Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society [edge.org], by Freeman Dyson)

      'In 2008, he endorsed the now common usage of "global warming" as synonymous with global anthropogenic climate change, referring to "measurements that transformed global warming from a vague theoretical speculation into a precise observational science.' (from the above linked Wikipedia article)

      If Freeman Dyson says your maths are rubbish -- They are.

      He doesn't appear to be making any claims about the math.

      My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me. (Freeman Dyson Takes on the Climate Establishment [yale.edu])

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        The behaviour is because just presenting the facts only worked until Thatcher and Carter (also worked with Nixon and Ford before him). Once Reagan rolled in on a wave of money from evangelicals and oil the facts didn't matter, and it's been like that since with global influence.

        So how do you successfully work against deliberate lies while acting too nice to call anyone a liar? That's why it looks a bit grubby even on the side of those arguing for reality.
    • Freeman Dyson doesn't believe human activity is causing global climate change, nor does he believe a changing climate is necessarily harmful. Historically, warmer times have been better times.

      "Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

      If Freeman Dyson says your maths are rubbish -- They are.

      If Freeman Dyson thinks the majority is badly wrong then he should actually put in some work to show them the error of their ways. Meanwhile a lot of talented scientists who study climate would say that Dyson doesn't know what he's talking about. This xkcd comes to mind. [xkcd.com]

  • Exxon, BP, Shell et. al. will be more than happy to supply whatever energy they can at a substantial markup. The law of supply and demand overrides flakey global climate studies that will never reach an agreement to truly reduce GHG emissions not just say you're going to reduce them. Besides the current middle eastern political climate says drill baby drill making all renewable energy damn expensive.

    In the meantime the climate scientists can still work on the models, the funding grants and burning all tha

    • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
      And pretty much all of these companies are full tilt into research into alternatives. Frankly, they could be 100% green producers of energy and people would still hate them for making billions of dollars.
      • And pretty much all of these companies are full tilt into research into alternatives.

        Solar is a fast growing alternative and the PV panels are made by completely different players. The Big Oil companies have no useful expertise in manufacturing or installing those. They don't have expertise in coal, uranium, or wind either.

        • no but they make billions every quarter and that means solar companies can be bought on the cheap. The big reason they probably haven't already done it is because of profit margins. They are heavily involved in the chemistry of things like polymer films for batteries.

  • Informed Denier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by watermark ( 913726 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:25PM (#51562031)

    I saw someone wearing a button that said "Informed Denier \n I love nature". Asked her about it and she said she was informed enough to know that climate change wasn't real. Sorry I didn't have more time to talk to her.

    There are a lot of people that I like to talk to one-on-one. Among them are climate change deniers, flat earthers, young earthers, trump/cruz supporters, and general conspiracy theorists. They are an entertaining bunch, you can give them facts and empirical data, and they find some way to ignore it or redirect as opposed to disputing the facts. It's become fascinating.

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      She's probably also a creationist that believes in the healing power of crystals and homeopathy, and checks her horoscope every day.
      If it wasn't for people like her there wouldn't be McDonalds employees or email spam.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @05:42PM (#51562199)

    The oil giant Exxon has a history of funding organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation

    Boo!

    try to thwart policies that address climate change

    I thought you just said Exxon was *funding* organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation, not *fighting* them.

    After all, the real misinformation would be continuing to spread the lie that CO2 will have a significant impact on temperature increase, or in any way hasten the inevitable ice age that could come back any moment.

    Perhaps just a misspelling in the summary?

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      >> the real misinformation would be continuing to spread the lie that CO2 will have a significant impact on temperature increase,

      Is this some attempt at humour that I'm just not getting, or do you _actually_ believe that CO2 is having no significant impact?

      http://climate.nasa.gov/causes... [nasa.gov]
      http://www3.epa.gov/climatecha... [epa.gov]
      http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessm... [www.ipcc.ch]

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      The oil giant Exxon has a history of funding organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation

      Boo!

      try to thwart policies that address climate change

      I thought you just said Exxon was *funding* organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation, not *fighting* them.

      After all, the real misinformation would be continuing to spread the lie that CO2 will have a significant impact on temperature increase, or in any way hasten the inevitable ice age that could come back any moment.

      Perhaps just a misspelling in the summary?

      Hukd on fizix werked 4 u! U maked all us beterz cuz ur so much smarter dan us it hurtz ur faze!

      I can haz brainz?

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