Ooops! Naomi Oreskes caught with biased numbers on #ExxonKnew

Exposed: Harvard Study Omitted Evidence to Allege ExxonMobil ‘Misled’ Public on Climate

recent report from Harvard researchers accusing ExxonMobil of misleading the public on climate change was based on an incomplete sampling of data collected by Greenpeace, according to a review by Energy In Depth. The Harvard report accused the company of producing research that affirmed human contributions to climate change, and then using newspaper advertorials to deny or sow doubt around climate-related science.

The study’s authors, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, announced the findings of their study in a column in the New York Times, in which they claimed that “81 percent of [ExxonMobil’s] climate change advertorials in one way or another expressed doubt.” The advertorials were taken from a database compiled and maintained by Greenpeace, an anti-fossil fuel group with its own anti-Exxon campaign. Critically, we found that this database omits dozens of climate-related advertorials run by the company that, had they been counted by Oreskes and Supran, would have severely weakened their case.

EID’s own review of the company’s New York Times advertorials reveals a dramatically different picture than what the Harvard authors claim to have found. EID’s random sample of the company’s relevant advertorials shows that the overwhelming majority – greater than 90 percent – affirm or otherwise strongly point to the fact that global warming is happening and humans are contributing to it.

EID’s review further shows that the researchers mischaracterized several advertorials as sowing doubt on climate science, even though the spots themselves described how the company planned to manage risks associated with climate change.

Biases Confirmed                                                                

The Supran/Oreskes study concluded that ExxonMobil’s internal documents and research on climate change, “published from 1977 to 2014, were in line with the scientific thinking of the time.” Where they fault the company is in its communications to the public, which they claim sought to sow doubt about the existence of climate change 80 percent of the time.

But their sample of public documents is small – 36 “advertorials” published in the New York Times between 1989 and 2004. According to Supran, “These are op-ed styled advertisements that the company took out for 29 years, every Thursday in the bottom right corner of the op-ed page of the New York Times.”

But there are a number of problems with this. The first and most obvious: ExxonMobil was formed in late 1999, 10 years after the earliest of the advertorials referenced by the study was published. In fact, of the 36 advertorials rated by Supran and Oreskes, only 11 belonged to ExxonMobil – the other 25 were published by Mobil (a different company from Exxon, remember) before the merger. Remove the Mobil submissions from the mix, and the universe of applicable advertorials is reduced by a 70 percent.

Indeed, study author Geoffrey Supran even misled reporters when he said a 1997 Mobil advertorial, one that strongly questioned the certainty of climate change, was written by Exxon – even though the advertorial prominently features Mobil’s logo and makes no mention of Exxon.


Read the entire article by Spencer Walrath at Energy in Depth, it’s quite a detailed analysis and well worth your time.

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69 thoughts on “Ooops! Naomi Oreskes caught with biased numbers on #ExxonKnew

      • I’m going to guess that Ms Oreskes has (or, had, in this case) powerful and influential allies in the MSM. Namely, her brother…

        “Michael Oreskes is an American journalist. He worked at the New York Daily News before spending twenty years at The New York Times. Oreskes was then vice president and senior managing editor at the Associated Press before joining NPR as senior vice president of news and editorial director in 2015 Oreskes was ousted in 2017 amid allegations of sexual harassment.”

      • @PiperPaul: At the end of my “Is Blood thicker than Objective Reporting?” ( http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=5885 ) piece yesterday afternoon, I suggested that the situation isn’t actually Michael Oreskes forcing his reporters to write something they don’t agree with, but rather that his sister was little more than another item to pile onto the confirmation bias going on at NPR:

        “There might not have been any need for Michael Oreskes to quash negative stories about his sister. It’s conceivable that reporters and administrators at NPR may uniformly be able to summarize the collective global warming issue as ‘we can ignore climate deniers because the science of man-caused global warming is settled and because Michael Oreskes’ sister proved denier scientists are paid industry money to lie about it being not settled’.”

  1. was based on an “”incomplete””‘ sampling of data collected by Greenpeace,…..

    Who writes this stuff?……..and who in their right mind thinks “incomplete” is the correct word?

    • Not sure where you’re going with this. The Cambridge Dictionary meaning suggests it’s exactly the right word:
      “Incomplete: not having some parts, or not finished:
      The decision was based on incomplete or inaccurate information.
      The building is still incomplete.”

  2. An example of cherry picking AKA special pleading, mixed with obvious bias and very dubious characterizations. An entirely normal paper by climate change advocates.

    • I haven’t seen one yet that doesn’t use deception, fabrication or omission to push a political agenda contrary to the facts. Oreskes, Mann, Hansen and others have zero objectivity. Activists first and foremost. Not scientists.

  3. Nonsense science abounds as cited in tossing of verdicts in the baby powder cases against Johnson and Johnson.

    WSJ

    A California judge tosses out a jury verdict based on little evidence.

    The judge also deemed the plaintiff’s evidence lacking. No causal link has been established between talc and ovarian cancer, as even one plaintiff expert testified. Lawyers sought support from an epidemiologist, but the judge noted that the “expert did not properly employ the methodology she espoused.”

    While the plaintiff attorneys then sought “to argue that epidemiological studies are not required to establish causation,” the judge determined this is “not persuasive given [the studies] were utilized for such a purpose.” The judge also dismissed the plaintiff’s unscientific contention that the condom industry’s discontinuation of talc after 1994 demonstrated its carcinogenic risk.

  4. I guess it goes without saying that the New York Times doesn’t do editorial checks on the columns in their paper (at least as long as they fit the narrative). They should change the slogan to the one the Walt Kelly (Pogo author) came up with long ago “All the news that fits, we print.”

    • I consider it fitting that “The New York Times” is an anagram of “The Monkeys Write,” reminiscent of the old Bob Newhart sketch. Eventually the monkeys will get something right, given enough time. In the meantime, the NYT is printing a pile of gzornenplatz.

    • Never use the words Harvard and ethics in the same sentence unless there is an odd number of negating words. Their physicians are generally ok, but I have never seen so much arrogance combined with so much ignorance in such a small volume of the universe as I find on that end of Memorial Drive for the rest of them. Sloan is not a lot better.

  5. If true, it points to clear academic misconduct by both authors. If their data appears knowingly misleading that demands an investigation by Harvard and Environmental Research Letters. Retraction by the journal and disciplinary action by Harvard (up to and including termination from employment) would be necessary.

  6. Greenpeace: An organisation devoted to recruiting young and gullible left wing activists to support their cause of extorting money from anyone they can, under whatever guise they can muster at the time.

    I read somewhere it was incredibly difficult to nail any individual down for prosecution for their underhand activities because of the organisations legal framework and status. i.e. no one ever carries the can if they do wrong, so they believe they are above the law and can make spurious claims about any organisation they want.

    Until that’s dealt with, this green cancer will continue to infect the planet.

    And well done to New Zealand who I believe, withdrew their charitable status and instead recognised them for what they are, a lobby group.

    And no wonder Patrick Moore is so vocal in his condemnation of them.

    • Greenpeace: An organisation devoted to recruiting young and gullible left wing activists to support their cause of extorting money from anyone they can, under whatever guise they can muster at the time.

      Once an organization has employees who depend on it for their livelihood, Jerry Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy takes hold. Anyone who actually cares about the original intent of the organization is removed. The purpose of the organization is thenceforth to ensure its own survival, and, of course, a fat paycheck for the CEO.

    • Remember how Greenpeace started. It was a leftist anti-nuclear group, meaning, stop the West from having nuclear weapons and power. It morphed into primarily an environmental group circa late 1980s/ 1990s when some of their major funding from their Eastern sources dried up. They then discovered that there were lots of trust fund babies and guilt ridden billionaires with money to spare as well as quasi government actors wishing to disrupt the competition. There were also enough “monkey wrench” gangers around who would volunteer as cannon fodder for really big media events. At one point Greenpeace and Sea Shepherds were the two best funded “environmental” organization in the world. Why Greenpeace has never been stopped as pirates for their actions on the high seas against otherwise legal, although distasteful, activity is still beyond me. They are radically anti-capitalist.

    • I wonder how long it will be before Greenpeace in New Zealand are granted charitable status again .Now that the Green party is part of our government any thing is possible.
      Russel Norman the ex leader of the green party was recently charged over a protest .
      Greenpeace in New Zealand get arrested quite often but usually only get a slap with a wet bus ticket .
      A recent arrest was in Canterbury where police had to remove protesters stopping the construction of large storage ponds to catch the snow melt that is happening at the moment …They are driven by ideology and cannot see the damage that they do .If the water is not stored for use in our dry summers in Canterbury it runs out to sea .River flows can become very low and one river the Selwyn partially dries up as it s headwaters are not in the Southern Alps .The Central Plains irrigation will put water into the Selwyn during the dry . The greens [ greenpeace ] are often protesting about offshore oil wells and palm kernel ships and protesters have been arrested ..They cant see how silly they look careering around in speed boats protesting about the use of fossil fuels causing climate change .

    • Good point. Why should an ivory tower academic be allowed to exercise as much or even more bias than a company that is trying to promote its products in a competitive environment?

      Heck, since this is related to full and honest disclosure about fossil fuel consumption, I can remember when carburettor magnets were being marketed to improve fuel economy. And if that seemed like a dubious claim, an onlooker noticed them under a friend’s hood, and asked George whether they work. George told him they’re so good that about every 250 miles he had to pull over and drain some gas into a container to keep his tank from overflowing.

      Anyone who knew my friend thought it was hilarious. I get the impression that a learned scholar like Naomi might have taken him seriously. After all, according to Greenpeace…

  7. The absurdity of this whole issue is the premise that a crime can be committed for withholding the truth about climate change when the truth has yet to be discovered. The Exxon story is much ado about nothing.
    The real story is the Harvard researchers report. A Harvard research guideline appears to be to distort the facts if the facts don’t support the desired conclusions. If this were true, what should be the consequences for such a serious breach of professional ethics?

    • The reputation of Harvard research is on the line. We’ll soon know if Harvard is an educational/scientific institution or a Lysenkoist propaganda front.

  8. It doesn’t surprise me that the data used was incomplete and biased. But making a distinction about Mobil and Exxon isn’t a valid point. Those two companies merged a number of years ago, so the surviving company carries the responsibility for the actions of both prior firms.

    • Assuming responsibility for the debts and liabilities of the other company when you merge is one thing, but assuming responsibility for the past advertisements of the other company makes no sense. The whole point the alarmists are trying to make is that “Exxon Knew.” Mobil’s advertisements before the merger proves absolutely nothing about what Exxon knew. They’re just assuming their audience is a bunch of useful idiots who won’t question their distortions.

      • Louis – DeLoss McKnight is correct

        Basic corporate law – “surviving company carries the responsibility for the actions of both prior firms.”

      • Tom13: You’re correct about the legal “blame” attribution, but the moral-blame attribution is a different matter. A merger would seem to dilute the guiltiness of the combined companies by 50%. As Louis wrote:

        The whole point the alarmists are trying to make is that “Exxon Knew.” Mobil’s advertisements before the merger proves absolutely nothing about what Exxon knew.

      • These “actions” are publications in a PERIOICAL. Their validity has an extent of perhaps 24 hours to a week, regarding Mobil. As a basis for proving what Exxon “knew,” a Mobil advertisement is completely worthless.

      • Yes, they are in search of meme-creation, a handy catchphrase/slogan that can be repeated endlessly in the MSM which will then just be “accepted” as true and used as a tool to fling blame around and demand some sort of reparations.

        “Exxon Knew”.

    • Your point bothered me to where I actually went to read the original article, where i found this:
      “EID also observed that the advertorials cited in the report were predominantly from Mobil before it merged with Exxon in 1999. As a result, the researchers largely compared the climate research of one company with the advertorials of a different company.”
      In other words, the entire case rests on combining knowledge from one company with actions of another to make the case that there was intentional misleading by the not yet formed combined company. This is of course something that they must’ve known when they did their research and so I’d like to inaugurate #oreskesknew.
      I think this crucial point needs to put in the article here.

    • Not from a legal standpoint—a merger or purchase will not include any liability not recognized at the time of sale. Therefore you can’t go back against Mobil for a civil liability because it no longer exists. Similarly, you can’t hold the current management and stockholders culpable for decisions made by others. It’s like attempting to hold children responsible for the acts of their ancestors.

  9. So she mislead about misleading.
    Is it just me, or do get the IDEAS for what they are accusing specifically by what they’re already doing? It that why they think of it? Because I’ve found a shell game behind damn near every claim warmists have made – usually without a hell of a lot of digging.

    • It’s very likely psychological projection, in which the unconscious views the Other through the lens of its own Shadow. The darker our Shadow is, the more evil we are apt to see in others, even when it’s not there at all.

    • Any time a leftist accuses someone else of an impropriety that accusation should automatically trigger an investigation into the accuser’s activities in the same field. Because leftists project.

  10. I would urge Spencer Walrath and other authors of the article to formally submit a “Comment” to IOPScience about the Supran & Oreskes paper. In the scientific world, if you find errors or problems with a paper you file a Comment of that paper to alert others to the problems. Writing an article in a blog, newspaper, or other non-reviewed source does not ‘count’. But if it is in the same journal as the paper, it will raise doubts in other scientists’ minds and the authors might feel compelled to reply or retract.

  11. Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
    I don’t normally like this blog for its stance against even sane understandings of Climate Change,,but occassionally he gets it right as he does here on Exxon.

    With a recent letter from Church of England clergy demanding that the CoE divests from Exxonmobil this shows they need to be more rigorous in their sources

  12. Naomi Oreskes has a long history of producing “just in time” science papers, each of which had a carefully calculated goal of political impact. In other words, made to order science, to manipulate the public. Most of the papers with her name attached are garbage.

  13. Marc A. Edwards and Siddhartha Roy, Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition, Environmental Engineering Science, Volume 34, Number 1, 2017. DOI: 10.1089/ees.2016.0223

    Abstract
    Over the last 50 years, we argue that incentives for academic scientists have become increasingly perverse in terms of competition for research funding, development of quantitative metrics to measure performance, and a changing business model for higher education itself. Furthermore, decreased discretionary funding at the federal and state level is creating a hypercompetitive environment between government agencies (e.g., EPA, NIH, CDC), for scientists in these agencies, and for academics seeking funding from all sources—the combination of perverse incentives and decreased funding increases pressures that can lead to unethical behavior. If a critical mass of scientists become untrustworthy, a tipping point is possible in which the scientific enterprise itself becomes inherently corrupt and public trust is lost, risking a new dark age with devastating consequences to humanity. Academia and federal agencies should better support science as a public good, and incentivize altruistic and ethical outcomes, while de-emphasizing output.

    Keywords: academic research; funding; misconduct; perverse incentives; scientific integrity

  14. A defense attorney told me back then that when the legal profession started advertising it would be the beginning of their corruption, a loss of professionalism. Whether cause or symptom others since then agreed. I also had some experience in Louisiana around that time with the petroleum industry and cannot recall anything about climate (except weather like hurricanes and severe freezes in 1983 and 1989), although they had plenty of legal and public relation problems to deal with from the oyster industry inshore to the general environmental (including archaeological) offshore. Their secrecy involved things of importance to any business, only different because of the exceptional things they dealt with. I wonder how many regulators and critics have ever been on a rig.

    As to the tobacco comparison, my brother-in-law long ago suggested that when we quit smoking it may have been the end of civility. It takes little historical research to find that health concerns about smoking are centuries old.

    Maybe scientists should never have gone into advertising. Or maybe just start smoking again.

  15. I had a look at the Supran and Oreskes article in a couple of posts.

    In the first, I found that ExxonMobil’s statements (or maybe Mobil’s or Exxon’s) are evaluated against the mantra AGW is “real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” held by people who fail to distinguish between empirical and verifiable statements, tautologies, opinions and public policy that requires some fanciful global political implementation.

    In the second, I concluded

    Supran and Oreskes evaluate the ExxonMobil articles for AGW and policy in terms of a belief mantra applied to a small subset of the literature on the subject. Each article is looked at independently of all other articles; all other available information; and all other contexts in evaluating the information. This includes ignoring how a successful business evaluates and challenges information in strategic decision-making. Further any legitimate argument or evidence that undermines the mantra is evidence of doubt. It is all about throwing the onus on ExxonMobil to disprove the allegations, but never for Supran and Oreskes justify their mantra or their method of analysis is valid.

    Like with so much of the output of climate alarmism, there are a number of different ways the argument fails.

  16. Are we aware that Ms. Oreskes’ brother Michael Oreskes’ employment as Senior vice-President of News has been terminated by National Propaganda Radio (a/k/a “National Public Radio” or “NPR”) for sexual harassment at both NPR and at his previous employer, Pravda (a/k/a “The New York Times”)?

    The dismissal has produced an uproar at NPR.

    See: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/01/561363158/nprs-head-of-news-resigns-following-harassment-allegations

      • @John W. Garrett: I appreciate the compliment. Sorry for what may have sent you into extended reading, and stay tuned, there will be more. I’ve long said that an ordinary citizen doesn’t have to be a climate scientist to participate in this issue, we all can see whether there is any problem with the political accusation that skeptic scientists are ‘paid oil money to lie’ and whether there is a problem with any of the core people who push this accusation.

  17. But you don’t understand.
    When Exxon puts out an advert on how it intends to deal with the challenges of Global Warming, it’s a backhanded way of telling people that they don’t have to worry, because the challenges of Global Warming CAN be handled.

    Obviously, anything short of message that declares “We’re all gonna die”, is just playing into the hands of the skeptics.

  18. Perhaps we should just see their Report as a late but gallant attempt (no sniggering please) to add ‘scientific gravitas’ (you’ve been warned!) to the defence of the pro-RICO AGs, who are probably beginning to feel a little uncomfortable at being found out/cast in a similar light.

  19. Simpler. I am a 3x Harvard grad, whom the major gifts office has been persuing for years. (Indicia include my buying them lunch when they flew down every year to importune me. They finnaly got it shrn I made clear would be zero contrib to any school until Noremski was fired, and until Harvard position was adjusted toward objective reality.
    Well, am saving much money even before the tax reforms.

  20. Scientist: a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.

    Pathological science, as defined by Langmuir, is a psychological process in which a scientist, originally conforming to the scientific method, unconsciously veers from that method, and begins a pathological process of wishful data interpretation (see the observer-expectancy effect and cognitive bias). Some characteristics of pathological science are:

    The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.
    The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.
    There are claims of great accuracy.
    Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.
    Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses.
    The ratio of supporters to critics rises and then falls gradually to oblivion.

    Langmuir never intended the term to be rigorously defined; it was simply the title of his talk on some examples of “weird science”. As with any attempt to define the scientific endeavor, examples and counterexamples can always be found.

    Confirmation bias can lead to the experimenter interpreting results incorrectly because of the tendency to look for information that conforms to their hypothesis, and overlook information that argues against it. (*Goldstein, Bruce. “Cognitive Psychology”. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011, p. 374)

    In research, experimenter bias occurs when experimenter expectancies regarding study results bias the research outcome.
    (Sackett, D. L. (1979). “Bias in analytic research”. Journal of Chronic Diseases. 32 (1–2): 51–63. PMID 447779. doi:10.1016/0021-9681(79)90012-2.)

    A cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.

    Bias arises from various processes that are sometimes difficult to distinguish. These include:

    information-processing shortcuts (heuristics)
    noisy information processing (distortions in the process of storage in and retrieval from memory)
    the brain’s limited information processing capacity
    emotional and moral motivations
    social influence

    Many people in government and politics studied political science:

    Political Science:is a social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts and political behaviour.

    There is no real science here… just the history of war and theft… any truths are just a matter of opinion and bias!!

  21. I get so tired of all the negative comments about these committed researchers and scientists. If you would just take the time to read their papers you would quickly realize that they carefully follow the long established protocols for the “Prunus avium” research and data retention methods. I would be surprised if you were unable to agree with me after reading even a small number of the plethora of papers that has been published by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes following these protocols.

    • The foliage and berries are extremely toxic when ingested, containing tropane alkaloids. … These toxins include atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine, which cause delirium and hallucinations…

      I do see certain similarities…

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