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ExxonSecrets
Jamais Cascio, 6 Jan 05

exxonsecrets.jpgConfidential to those out there who want to make big money and don't care who or what gets hurt along the way: become a climate change "skeptic." There are quite a few well-funded institutions and corporations out there willing to spend quite a bit of cash in the desperate attempt to convince people that climate change isn't happening, if it is it isn't human caused, either way it will be beneficial, there's nothing we can do about it anyway, and anyone who tells you otherwise hates America, capitalism, and probably apple pie, too. These "skeptics" often have lofty or serious-sounding institutions behind them, although these institutions seem to be different every time. And the "skeptics" generally seem to get a lengthy hearing by people in economic and political power. Surely all of that is coincidence, of course.

Or not. Greenpeace, in coordination with CLEAR, the Clearninghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research, has put together ExxonSecrets: a powerful -- and, in a terriblisma kind of way, fun -- flash application/website listing the myriad connections between the dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals wrapped up in the ongoing efforts to obfuscate and deny the abundant scientific evidence that the climate's in a real mess. Much to nobody's surprise, many of these organizations receive generous funding from ExxonMobil, by far the most obstinate and retrograde of the global oil companies when it comes to climate issues. Some of the organization and individual names will be familiar, others more obscure, but what's important are the almost incestuous relationships between industry, lobbyists and pseudo-academic "think tanks," each asserting independence but actually relying on the same tired claims (long-dismissed by real climate scientists) and biased analysis.

Receiving funding doesn't a priori mean bias, and if all ExxonSecrets did was list how much different organizations received from Exxon, it would be of only limited utility. But the site shows myriad small pieces of evidence -- membership in multiple organizations with strong carbon lobby connections, close relationships between "independent" analysts and oil industry execs, organizations which pop up and disappear as industry mouthpieces. These may not be sufficient to make one immediately dismiss the statements of many of those organizations and individuals listed, but they should lead one to treat such statements with a great deal of skepticism.

As this suggests, ExxonSecrets has a longer-term value beyond simply playing with the interlocking directorships. Like They Rule, it's a great tool for immediately reality-checking news reports. When you see an article quoting some research group or academic stating that science is "split" about climate change, or that global warming "remains unproven," enter their name(s) in ExxonSecrets -- there's a darn good chance they'll come up as being a fully-endowed member of the Exxonerati. ExxonSecrets is a useful cheat sheet for getting to know the usual suspects.

(Update Friday 1/7: The ExxonSecrets site seems to be down this morning. Don't know why -- could be as simple as a routing problem or as unpleasant as a denial-of-service hit. I'll update when I find it's is back up.)

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