In some ways, itâs kind of a no-brainer that Exxon would go after climate science on a very superficial level. Itâs sort of in their self-interest to keep government away from fossil fuels, right? Is that how it began? Well, there were a lot of corporations, including oil companies, that objected to the Kyoto accords in 1997. But most of them lobbied against the treaty on economic and fairness grounds that would cost the economy of the United States too much for the benefits promised, and also that it wasnât fair that developing societies would be left out of the bargain. But Exxon did something that I think was fairly radical, which was that they chose to go after the science. And I think that was more the results of the personal conviction of the chief executive, Lee Raymond, than it really was an expression of their rational business needs. After all, ExxonMobil was an oil and gas company. Gas was not problematic under climate change regulation. Oil was not as problematic as coal. They were an enormous corporation with rich profits. They could have survived Kyoto. They could have survived a price cap on carbon. They could survive on that. But they chose not only to oppose the treaty, but to attack the science. So they could have in a sense written a check for what Kyoto called for, and instead not only went after the treaty but every scientific basis or even thinking about climate change as a threat to the world. Lee Raymond â who had a doctoral degree in chemical engineering and who had a personal conviction that he understood the science well enough to reach a judgment about it â decided that the science was wrong. He believed that it was a hoax, in effect, that the earth was not warming at all. â¦ So he not only went after the treaty bargain, but funded, often in the early years surreptitiously, campaigns to attack the science that were carried out by nonscientific groups, often by free-market ideologues, â¦ this out of an organization, ExxonMobil, that is in fact quite dependent on scientists and science. In time, perhaps we will understand what the internal reaction among scientists within ExxonMobil was to this campaigning, because thereâs some evidence that within ExxonMobil, there was study going on about how global warming could affect oil discovery, for example. So on the one hand, the chief executive was saying there is no global warming, and on the other hand, scientific departments of ExxonMobil were looking into how, if there was global warming, ExxonMobil could profit from it. â¦ What sort of tools were at the disposal of Exxon to really go after the science? After all, isnât science science? Well, money to fund campaigns raising doubts. I mean, science is science, but science is based on doubts. Science is based on arguments. Science is based on honest dissent. There is hardly a branch of science where you canât identify a single scientist who doesnât have an opposing view. In fact, scientists are trained to question and doubt. In the case of climate science in the late 1990s, the consensus was still forming around how confident scientists could be about the cause, the contribution of human industrial activity to warming, what the risks over what period of time would actually turn out to be. Here in 2012, we have a much clearer sense of what the modeling warns us about than was available in 1997. And so ExxonMobil was able to exploit genuine divisions that were still present in a global scientific community. Those divisions were narrowing; they were closing. They would vanish within five to seven years. But ExxonMobil drove a wedge into that debate, exploited the dissent that is an aid to science and used this to create doubts in the public mind about whether the science was legitimate. âExxonMobil drove a wedge into that debate, exploited the dissent that is an aid to science and used this to create doubts in the public mind about whether the science was legitimate.â After all, this is a kind of science that is very difficult for any ordinary American to evaluate on his or her [own], and we all know that weather is uncertain. We all watch the weather forecast every night and watch the weathermen who are presumably trained meteorologists and [who] get it wrong over and over and over again. So here comes a campaign suggesting that this very consequential weather forecast might turn out to be wrong. Well, thereâs an intuitive way in which Americans are going to take that up, especially if itâs propounded in a clever way that emphasizes whatâs uncertain and whatâs unknown. â¦ So here comes a campaign suggesting that this very consequential weather forecast might turn out to be wrong. Well, thereâs an intuitive way in which Americans are going to take that up, especially if itâs propounded in a clever way that emphasizes whatâs uncertain and whatâs unknown.