Once again, the Los Angeles Times has published a story by a team from Columbia University distorting ExxonMobil’s history of climate research by the paper’s selective, out-of-context use of publicly available company documents.
Before getting to the blatant misstatements – and errors – included in this latest offering, a few important points. First, our company continues to recognize that climate risks are real and responsible actions are warranted. In view of the monumental scale of the world’s need for energy, solutions are not easy – they will require time, huge investments, and thoughtful policies. This is what should have been the focus of the Columbia/Los Angeles Times team and by InsideClimate News, which has produced similar stories recently.
And, with that commitment to helping address this important societal challenge, ExxonMobil has continuously and publicly researched and discussed climate change risks, carbon life cycle analysis, and emissions reductions. The result has been hundreds of publicly available documents on climate-related topics, including more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and nearly 300 patents for cutting-edge technological advances in emissions reductions and other related applications.
The latest Times story once again ignores these decades of continuous and public research by the company on the challenge of climate change, research often conducted in collaboration with governmental bodies and leading universities. Ignoring these significant contributions to the collective efforts to understand this important topic paints an inaccurate and distorted picture.
Read the documents
A close examination of the documents the Times cited in its story will confirm that the words of our scientists and employees have been taken out of context by the paper to create a deliberately misleading narrative.
Just like with its previous story, and others by InsideClimate News, we have nothing to hide. In fact, I’d encourage you to read the source documents for the L.A. Times story in their entirety – here, here, and here.
It should be very telling that we take pains to offer these documents in full here. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, failed to offer the links to the full documents in its story, leaving readers to rely on the paper’s interpretation and its selective and disingenuous use of quotes. I can only surmise that’s because the documents tell a very different story from the one published in the Times.
The documents make clear that company executives recommended a single course of action: continue to research what in the 1980s was an emerging field of scientific inquiry.
A couple of quick examples.
The Times story inaccurately says that former Exxon scientist Duane Levine told the board of directors that the company “should emphasize the doubt.”
Here’s Levine’s presentation to the board. Nowhere does it contain anything that can remotely substantiate the story’s assertion. See for yourself. Read the document, which, again, we offer in its entirety.
What the Times didn’t report
More important, here’s what the Los Angeles Times didn’t report from Levine’s presentation to the board.
Levine’s conclusion – which I am reprinting below – was that to be a “responsible participant and part of the solution” to the climate change challenge, the company should continue research, support energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and pursue new technologies. Read it for yourself.
What you will see in the Times story, however, is a two-line excerpt from a draft presentation to Levine – not the final presentation delivered to the board — which included a hand-written note clearly indicating it was a draft and stressing it had not been fact-checked by company experts. The Times story fails to mention these important details.
I haven’t even bothered to detail how the authors of this sloppy and distorted story gave us less than 24 hours to respond, even though the Times website says they’ve been working on it over the last year. This flies in the face of basic journalistic ethics.
But if these distorted media reports have taught us anything, it is that they serve as a powerful reminder of ExxonMobil’s many contributions and accomplishments of our scientists in the study of climate change – work we are proud to continue.