Did Exxon conceal its own research findings on climate change?19. May 2021
Did Exxon conceal its own research findings on climate change?
New York, 5/19/2021
Harvard researchers used machine learning to analyze Exxon Mobil’s statements on climate change over decades. They found that the company was misrepresenting its own research findings.
For example, 80% of the company’s internal research showed that humans were contributing to climate change. But the majority of the company’s public statements made no mention of that, they said.
Researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes conducted the computer-based analysis, described as an “algorithmic corpus comparison and machine learning topic model” of Exxon Mobil internal documents, peer-reviewed research and public statements.
It showed that over the decades, Exxon used more phrases – such as “potential long-term risks” instead of stronger language – that downplayed the impacts and reality of climate change and its own role in causing CO2 emissions.
The company used phrases like “energy demand” or “energy use” to explain why it continued to rely on fossil fuels, which Oreskes called “blame-shifting language.”
Exxon’s own research mentioned “fossil fuel combustion” as a source of CO2 beginning in the 1970s. The researchers concluded that “some terms and issues were publicly overemphasized , while others were avoided.”
Their paper, “Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil’s climate change communications,” was published in the journal One Earth.