Exxon, AGU, and Corporate Support

Throughout this year, AGU has been communicating with groups of scientists, both members and non-members, that have called on us to sever any sponsorship relations with ExxonMobil.

As this conversation continues, ClimateTruth.org will be promoting a letter and subsequent public petition furthering this effort in advance of AGU’s September Board meeting. You can view the petition here.

This issue will be reviewed and addressed at the September Board meeting, and all the new information that has been shared with us will be provided to them in advance. A short post detailing AGU’s decision-making process which guided that decision can be found here. We encourage you to read it, and we welcome your questions and input via comments on this blog post or by direct email to President@AGU.org.

AGU has always welcomed dialogue and the open exchange of ideas and information. We are proud to have engaged members and look forward to continuing the discussion about important issues such as this one.



13 Responses to “Exxon, AGU, and Corporate Support”

  1. Geoffrey Supran

    As an AGU member and young scientist worried about the threat of climate change on my generation, I’ve proudly signed the petition calling on AGU to reject Exxon sponsorship. Already, so have almost 50,000 others. I’d urge everyone else, AGU member or not, to do the same.

    My reason for signing is simple: AGU should not legitimise Exxon — a company with a proven track record of slandering AGU’s very own science and scientists. AGU’s sponsorship deal with Exxon does just that, lending the oil giant our great institution’s social license; literally elevating Exxon’s name on “thank you to our sponsors” posters at AGU’s December conferences.

    Not only is this morally wrong, it is also a violation of AGU’s own policy, plain and simple. AGU’s sponsorship policy is explicit: “AGU will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.” Yet “misinformation of science” has basically been Exxon’s slogan for the past twenty-five years. To this day, Exxon funds the National Black Chamber of Commerce (which calls global warming a “myth”), the American Legislative Exchange Council (which says climate change is an “inevitable…historical phenomenon”), and politicians who call the whole thing a “hoax”, to name a few. There’s simply no way to reconcile AGU’s policy with Exxon’s support of misinformation. This should be an open-and-shut case.

  2. Alan Robock

    Solution to the global warming problem is being stymied in the U.S. by a well-funded disinformation and lobbying campaign by fossil fuel interests. There is a long history of this, and today one need look no farther than the Republican Party, their 2016 Platform, and the actions of the House “Science” Committee Chair, Lamar Smith on their behalf. It is no coincidence that oil and gas interests are the top contributors to Mr. Smith during his political career, 1989-2016. So how is a professional organization of scientists like AGU to deal with this influence?
    At the 2006 Fall AGU Meeting, I was shocked to see a full-page ad in the written program for the ExxonMobil Student Breakfast. I was a member of the AGU Council at the time, as Atmospheric Sciences Section President-Elect. My motion at the December 2006 Council Meeting resulted in Exxon no longer being able to do this. Some geology members of the Council saw nothing wrong with Exxon, but I explained that AGU is a science organization, and as far as climate science, goes, Exxon is anti-science. Still, 10 years later, AGU accepts donations from Exxon to support, although no longer control, the Student Breakfast, in the vain hope that AGU can engage Exxon to change its ways.
    The position of the AGU Board so far, that they demand undeniable proof that Exxon continues to support organizations that support global warming denial, seems to me to err on the side of Exxon. The long history of Exxon support continues, and it is not hard for AGU to find the evidence. How can AGU think that continued engagement with Exxon will magically change them after more than 10 years of no action? It reminds me of the failed 50-year US policy of a Cuban embargo. Let’s try an experiment of saying “no” to them, and publicizing widely that the largest geophysical scientific organization on Earth says to Exxon, “Leave the fossil fuels in the ground.”

  3. Ed Maibach

    Exxon has repeated pledged to stop funding climate misinformation and denial, and has repeatedly ignored their pledge. Exxon’s actions are especially egregious given that their senior management has known the truth for decades, thanks to the climate scientists they employ.
    My research, and research by many other scholars, has proven that climate misinformation is harmful. AGU hurts itself, and hurts society, by accepting funding from Exxon, given its track record of misinformation and denial.

  4. Ed Maurer

    As an AGU member for nearly 20 years who has spent the majority of that investigating climate change impacts on water, I also signed the petition for AGU to reject Exxon sponsorship. I’ll second Geoffrey Supran’s very well stated comment!

  5. Melissa Lane

    Big Oil has changed the face of the earth in a deleterious way. And Exxon played a big part in that change. Exxon has been putting out misinformation for decades in order to continue selling product and pocketing profit. Now that they have been exposed it is time for AGU to end their relationship with Exxon and not legitimize the company that has been denigrating good science regarding climate change.

  6. Andrew Rorick

    Exxon/Mobil Corp continues to fund CC-denial organizations. Accepting sponsorship from them demeans AGU. Please drop it.

  7. Walter Yerk

    When the AGU leadership refuses to denounce Exxon’s action it sends a message that it is okay for a’ guy with money’ to twist ethics. Please keep in mind – student members make up 22% of the membership.

  8. Stephan Lewandowsky

    Having studied the motivated rejection of science for many years as a cognitive scientists, and being conversant with the funding networks behind climate denial, I believe it is appropriate for AGU to send a signal by discontinuing its relationship with Exxon. Exxon may not be the only entity that is known to have actively funded the denigration of climate science and climate scientists, but it is certainly one of them. So why would AGU be associated with this entity, if there are plenty of other fossil-fuel companies whose record is less problematic? It would be unrealistic to think that we can do away with fossil fuels over night, and energy companies will obviously have to be involved in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and AGU should work with those corporations during the transition. But Exxon demonstrably is not one of them.

  9. Chris Measures

    Whether or not Exxon is still funding climate science deniers or not is besides the point. We cannot know this unless they tell us, highly unlikely. The point is they did this in the past leading to the onslaught on science and its methodologies that have been ubiquitous over the last decade or more. It is simply unconscionable for AGU to take money from an organization that actively attacks science. AGU used to be an organization that supported science and its methodologies, apparently that is less important to them now. I am going to wait to see if the Board reverses this apparently political decision in September before deciding whether to let my membership lapse. I certainly do not want to be a member of an organization that sells itself like this, and for so little money, what were you all thinking?

  10. Charles H Greene

    Inspired by the resourcefulness of Captain Renault of Casablanca fame, the AGU Board responded to the irrefutable evidence placed in its hands with, “I am shocked, shocked to find that misinformation is going on in here!” Since the Board nevertheless deems it appropriate to expose our finest young minds in the Earth Sciences to a breakfast sponsored by Exxon, would it not be equally appropriate to invite the honorable Congressman from the 21st District of Texas, Lamar Smith, to be a keynote speaker at the event?

  11. Alan Betts

    In 1976, I argued that if earth scientists, who had some understanding, did not accept responsibility for the Earth, who would? Certainly not the political and economic system that had only short-term interests. Exxon for the past 35 years has been part of the network willing to sacrifice the planet for its own profit, using every fraudulent tactic possible. Together with the sophisticated dark money network, funded by a group of libertarian billionaires. For the AGU (I am an AGU Fellow) to rationalize accepting Exxon’s money is a travesty of scientific ethics.

  12. CHarles Greene

    Last Wednesday, I delivered a petition with over 53,000 signatures in support of AGU severing ties with Exxon. Here are a few points we are trying to make:

    1. By suppressing science, funding attacks on our scientific colleagues, and purposely disseminating misinformation about climate change and its impacts, Exxon has prioritized its profits at humanity’s expense.

    2. Exxon’s reprehensible behavior has put our nation and the world at extreme risk not just today but for the next thousand years.

    3. In the process, Exxon has used its financial wealth to corrupt our political system. There is no better example of this corruption than Wednesday’s Science Committee Hearing, in which a climate-denying congressman generously funded by the fossil fuel industry, including Exxon, made a mockery of the relationship between the federal government’s legislative branch and judicial due process at the state level. It should come as no surprise that Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has received over $675,000 from the oil and gas industry since 1998.

    4. Exxon is also using its wealth to greenwash the company’s image by investing millions of dollars into scientific public relations campaigns rather than seriously investing in the transition to a clean-energy future. The amount of money spent on television advertising to greenwash its image during the recent Olympic Games was staggering.

    5. The proposed $35,000 contribution from Exxon to sponsor next Fall’s AGU Meeting in San Francisco pales in comparison to the company’s Olympic-sized, television greenwashing budget. However, it consequences are far more insidious.

    6. If AGU continues to accept Exxon’s support, then it will be directly violating its own organizational support policy: “AGU‘s organization partnership program helps develop relationships with organizations that align with AGU’s values of unselfish cooperation in research and the highest standards of scientific integrity, that do not harm AGU’s brand and reputation, and that share a vested interest in and commitment to advancing and communicating science and its power to ensure a sustainable future. The public statement(s) of our organizational partners shall not directly oppose those of AGU. AGU will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.”

    7. The hundreds of Earth scientists I represented, as well as the 53,000 signatories on our petition, are requesting that the AGU Board not sell out our Union’s principles by continuing to accept Exxon’s sponsorship. To do so will enhance the reputation of a company that has a long and well documented track record of displaying contempt for the scientific process and failing to live up to its responsibilities to society. Simultaneously, it will diminish the integrity of AGU and leave a lasting stain on our Union’s reputation.


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