The oil giant ExxonMobil has admitted that its support for lobby groups that question the science of climate change may have hindered action to tackle global warming. In its corporate citizenship report, released last week, ExxonMobil says it intends to cut funds to several groups that "divert attention" from the need to find new sources of clean energy.
The move comes ahead of the firm's annual meeting today in Dallas, at which prominent shareholders including the Rockefeller family will urge ExxonMobil to take the problem of climate change more seriously. Green campaigners accuse the company of funding a "climate denial industry" over the last decade, with $23m (£11.5m) handed over to groups that play down the risks of burning fossil fuels.
The ExxonMobil report says: "In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner."
Nine groups have reportedly lost the company's support, including the George C Marshall Institute, the Washington DC-based think tank that asserts there is no scientific consensus on climate change, and that changes in the sun, not greenhouse gases, could be responsible for rising temperatures.
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A survey carried out by the UK's Royal Society found that in 2005 ExxonMobil distributed $2.9m to 39 groups that the society said "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence". In 2006 the society wrote to the company to ask them to stop funding such groups.
Kert Davies of Greenpeace said: "The organisations eliminated in this latest rounds of cuts could be called the engine room of the climate sceptic industry, but if Rex Tillerson [head of ExxonMobil] is serious about his company shaking off this shameful legacy, he needs to make a wider sweep."
Greenpeace says ExxonMobil continues to fund over "two dozen other organisations who question the science of global warming or attack policies to solve the crisis."
© 2008 The Guardian