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Bolstering Case Against Exxon, New Study Confirms Vast Damage of Denial Campaign

'The contrarian efforts have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust.'

Corporate-backed groups "consistently promoted the same contrarian themes—casting doubt, for example, on whether higher levels of man-made carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere were harmful to the planet." (Image: Shutterstock/alphaspirit)

Corporate dollars intensify ideological polarization while sowing mistrust on the issue of climate change, with ExxonMobil and the Koch family foundations driving the phenomenon through the creation of climate disinformation think tanks and dissemination of coordinated contrarian messaging in mainstream media and public discourse.

So finds a new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) journal and based on an analysis of more than 39 million words of text produced by 164 organizations active in the coordinated campaign to deny the existence of human-caused climate change between 1993 and 2013.

Study author Justin Farrell, a Yale University sociologist, told the Washington Post that this "birds-eye view" revealed an "ecosystem of influence" within the corporate-backed groups.

Within this anti-science echo chamber, the Post reports, "[t]hose that received donations consistently promoted the same contrarian themes—casting doubt, for example, on whether higher levels of man-made carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere were harmful to the planet. There was no evidence of such coordination among the non-funded groups."

Still, as Farrell told the Post: "The contrarian efforts...have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust."

As Brendan DeMelle at the DeSmog Blog pointed out on Tuesday, the research "confirms once again the central thesis of industry-funded attacks on climate science"—a thesis that is at the heart of the escalating #ExxonKnew campaign, aimed at probing the corporation's climate cover-up. 

Not only do the study's findings raise questions about how corporate media outlets will cover such misinformation campaigns in the future, wrote DeMelle, but the research also "provides further evidence of the public deception orchestrated by the fossil fuel industry, and should prove valuable to investigators examining ExxonMobil as well as other current and future efforts to hold polluters accountable for their PR pollution."

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