The offer was made in letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a think tank and lobbying organization funded by ExxonMobil. The letters offered scientists in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere $10,000, plus travel expenses and additional payments, in exchange for articles that would attack the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations organization.
The new IPCC report combines the work of more than 2,000 international scientists and has undergone extensive peer review. It is expected to virtually end the debate on the causes and consequences of global warming, and to form the basis for international negotiations on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect and rapid climate change.
The letters from AEI are just the latest in an ongoing campaign by ExxonMobil to confuse the public about the reality and dangers of global warming. Over the past few months, ExxonMobil has been criticized by U.S. senators and the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific group, for funding a network of groups like AEI that engage in an orchestrated disinformation campaign that attempts to undermine legitimate scientific research on global warming. And the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report in early January documenting ExxonMobil’s attempts to discredit global warming research and comparing it to earlier efforts by tobacco companies to persuade the public that there was no scientific evidence that cigarette smoking was harmful.
AEI also has close ties to the Bush administration, which is under investigation for trying to suppress evidence of global warming and to prevent government scientists from speaking out on the issue.
"The AEI is more than just a think tank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra,” said Ben Stewart of Greenpeace. “They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."
Cash is certainly not a problem for ExxonMobil, which on Thursday announced record profits of more than $39.5 billion for 2006—the highest profits ever made by a company in a single year—eclipsing its own previous world record of $36.1 billion for 2005.
Climate scientists were quick to criticize the move by ExxonMobil and AEI.
"It's a desperate attempt by an organization who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, in an interview with The Guardian.
"The IPCC is the world's leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue,” said Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of Britain’s Royal Society. “It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that 'business as usual' would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise."