Oil and petrol lobbies have spent fortunes on climate change denial since the 1980s. They put on fake conferences, produce pseudo-scientific reports that look and sound like science and they excel at manipulating social media and news outlets with slick and subtle campaigns. One technique is to fund research by a large number of scientists, and then to disregard all of the ones that come to the 'wrong' conclusions, and publish only the information that suits the petroleum industry. The intention is to convince as many people as possible that climate change isn't real, or, if it is real, that humanity isn't causing it, or that we don't need to (or can't) do anything about it, or, if it actually can be averted, that petrochemicals aren't actually a major factor, and therefore, the oil industry should be left alone.1,2,3,4
It is an industrial-scale long-term misinformation campaign, funded, often collaboratively, by Exxon, Ford, Texaco, General Motors (GM), British Petroleum (BP), and DaimlerChrysler amongst others. They, along with many rich and influential oligarchs, especially from the USA and oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia, pour millions into corrupting politicians and contributing to outfits that are willing to deny anthropogenic climate change.1,2,3,5. The money spent on this denial dwarfs any of the budgets of scientific or governmental bodies that attempt to educate the public and it represents the single biggest self-destructive endeavour our species has pursued so far.
Oil and petrol lobbies have spent fortunes on the production of fake and biased science that looks legitimate to the general public1,3. They put-on fake conferences, produce pseudo-scientific 'reports' that look and sound like science, but are simply not founded in the evidenced, peer-reviewed scientific method3.
One common technique is to fund research by a large number of scientists, and then to disregard all of the ones that come to the 'wrong' conclusions, and publish only the information that suits the petroleum industry3. Another technique is to champion, or produce, scientists that are willing to loudly rail against the scientific consensus with message of how the scientific community is en masse lying about climate change; such people are normally writing outside of their area of expertise, but the public often think that one scientist is as good as another, and rarely notice. Such mavericks are easily debunked by professionals, but, they are often very popular with the masses, especially as very few are interested in fact-checkers.
“Reminiscent of the way in which the tobacco industry previously poured huge sums into 'independent' research showing that the effects of smoking on health had been greatly exaggerated, so now the oil and energy industries are supporting science to challenge research about global warming and its effects.”
The Global Climate Coalition was founded in the around 1990, and funded "scientists and writers who would provide disinformation regarding climate change to anybody who would listen. For more than ten years they supported 'research' that would cast doubt on scientific reports" about the dangers of burning fossil fuels2. This maverick outfit received a lot of media coverage each time it produced a report; it was funded by a collaboration between Exxon, Ford, Texaco, General Motors (GM), British Petroleum (BP), and DaimlerChrysler2 - yet there was no indication given in the mass media that these "scientific" reports were funded by the oil lobby - it was all presented as unbiased research, and done long-term damage to the popular understanding of climate change.
“Within months of the UN producing its first report endorsing the idea of man-made climate change, in 1989, Exxon and other big corporations started setting up pseudo-groups. The first and biggest was the Global Climate Coalition [and] when Kyoto nevertheless produced an agreement to cut emissions, Exxon, in early 1998, helped to set up a new front group, the Global Climate Science Team. [...] Between 1998 and 2005, ExxonMobil alone spent $15.8 million on forty-three different front groups, according to research published in January 2007 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, who described this as 'the most sophisticated and successful disinformation campaign since Big Tobacco misled the public.”
It has real-world effects. For example, the Daily Mail is the most popular tabloid newspaper in the UK, but, is scientifically illiterate. Nonetheless, it routinely produces articles on scientific topics, especially if they are current hot topics. They are woefully incapable of discerning what 'reports' they should repeat, and which they should debunk.
“A columnist at the Daily Mail [...] Melanie Phillips [wrote] a series of outspoken columns denouncing the whole concept of man-made climate change. 'Global warming is a scam,' she wrote in February 2002. 'The latest evidence is provided in a report published today by the European Science and Environment Forum, in which a group of the most eminent scientists from Britain and America shred the theory.' However, the forum whose work she was quoting was, in truth, yet another pseudo-group, created with the help of two PR agencies (APCO Worldwide and Burson-Marsteller) with the specific intent of campaigning against restrictions on corporate activity; and the report to which Phillips referred in such glowing terms was recycled work which had been funded by Exxon.”
They have created a long series of legitimate-looking fake lobby groups1 - "between 1998 and 2005, ExxonMobil alone spent $15.8 million on forty-three different front groups"6. It causes the public to have no chance at properly understanding the long-term damage to the environment being done by petro-oil industries.
“Analysis of ExxonMobil Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments reports and ExxonMobil Foundation 990 tax forms reveals that Exxon continues to fund climate denier groups. Between 1998-2014, Exxon gave over $30 million to such groups (Source: Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists). Since 2007, ExxonMobil has also donated $1.87 million to Republicans in Congress who deny climate change.”
The companies often work together. A $13-million TV advertising collaboration between Exxon, Ford, Texaco, General Motors (GM), British Petroleum (BP), and DaimlerChrysler2 in the 1990s pitched international climate-change discussions as an attack on the USA and made "the whole issue as a matter of freedom and patriotism. 'America has signed many treaties... but never a treaty of surrender,' was the key line in one advertisement, over a photograph of the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War"6. Their Global Climate Coalition made itself out to be a citizen-led group, and directly lobbied the government and funded 'writers who would provide disinformation regarding climate change'2. It achieved a lot of media coverage.