Global Climate Science Communications Plan (1998)

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Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

The Global Climate Science Communications Plan (1998) was created by a small group of prominent industry, PR and "think tank" heads styled the "Global Climate Science Communications Team (GCSCT)", aka "Global Climate Science Team". Their plan for a campaign to confuse the public about the state of the science of global warming was laid out in a memo, which became public.[1],[2]

The "Global Climate Science Communications Team" members were convened by the American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S. oil and gas lobbying operation with membership including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell Oil and ConocoPhillips. The team allocated "$600,000 plus paid advertising" for a strategy to influence the American public through a PR campaign waged through U.S. media outlets and journalists. Tactics to deploy this strategy included created an industry group to be a "one-stop resource on climate science for members of Congress, the media, industry and all others concerned" and a public relations campaign coordinated through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council


The memo, written by the American Petroleum Institute's Joe Walker, named the following members as having contributed to the development of the plan:

Notable Quotes from the Global Climate Science Communications Plan

Goals of the Global Climate Science Communications Team:

Quoted from the memo:

"Victory Will Be Achieved When

  • Average citizens "understand" (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the "conventional wisdom"
  • Media "understands" (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science
  • Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current "conventional wisdom"
  • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy
  • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extent science appears to be out of touch with reality."

(End quote)

Budgeted Items in the Plan

"National Media Program Budget -- $600,000 plus paid advertising"

Joe Walker's memo listed a media outreach plan to undercut "prevailing scientific wisdom" on global warming in anticipation of an upcoming global climate change summit in Bueno Aires, Argentina in November, 1998. Tactics would "continue thereafter" following the Buenos Aires conference, and would rely on information compiled and disseminated by a proposed "Global Climate Science Data Center."

"Global Climate Science Data Center Budget --- $5,000,000 (Spread over two years minimum)"

The proposed GCSDC was intended to be a "one-stop resource on climate science for members of Congress, the media, industry and all others concerned" with global climate change programs and policies. The GCSDC was also envisioned to host a "Science Education Task Group" to influence science education organizations like the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and disseminate material to schools. Groups like the now-defunct Environmental Literacy Council and The Heartland Institute later employed these tactics intended to reach teachers and children studying science.

While no group with the exact name "Global Climate Science Data Center" was created, the concept may have spurred the creation of industry-funded groups whose mission is similar to that outlined in the 1998 API memo, such as the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, itself founded in 1998.

"National Direct Outreach Program Budget ---- $300,000"

This component of the leaked Walker memo was established to give longevity to the efforts to undermine climate scientists and policymakers concerned about the conclusions of climate research. Walker listed potential funders: the American Petroleum Institute and oil companies with API membership, the Business Roundtable and its respective corporate executive members, the Edison Electric Institute and members that include coal-burning utilities, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and its oil refining member companies, and the National Mining Association and members including coal mining companies.

Organizations listed as potential recipients of the funds raised included the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom and The George C. Marshall Institute.

Notable Quotes from the Memo

On having no defined time frame to end industry-funded public relations campaigns to undermine science:

  • "Unless "climate change" becomes a non-issue, meaning that the Kyoto proposal is defeated and there are no further initiatives to thwart the threat of climate change, there may be no moment when we can declare victory for our efforts. It will be necessary to establish measurements for the science effort to track progress toward achieving the goal and strategic success."

On undercutting U.S. legitimacy in global climate change negotiations:

  • "Moreover, from the political viewpoint, it is difficult for the United States to oppose the treaty solely on economic grounds, valid as the economic issues are. It makes it too easy for others to portray the United States as putting preservation of its own lifestyle above the greater concerns of mankind."

On the potential to exploit public uncertainty about the conclusions of climate science researchers:

  • "Charlton Research's survey of 1,100 "informed Americans" suggests that while Americans currently perceive climate change to be a great threat, public opinion is open enough to change on climate science. When informed that "some scientists believe there is not enough evidence to suggest that [what is called global climate change] is a long-term change due to human behavior and activities," 58 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to oppose the Kyoto treaty. Moreover, half the respondents harbored doubts about climate science."

Groups Listed

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. Profile: Global Climate Science Team. History Commons. Retrieved on 2009-12-30. “ExxonMobil helps create the Global Climate Science Team (GCST), a small task force that is charged with discrediting the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are warming the planet”
  2. ExxonSecrets FAQ. Greenpeace USA. Retrieved on 2010-01-1. “The now famous 1998 American Petroleum Institute memo, Global Climate Science Communications Actions Plan, authored by Exxon, API and several of the individuals and organizations that headline ExxonSecrets, drew a bead on the importance of the debate on science framing...”
  3. Global warming: The campaign by the American Petroleum Institute. e_wesker. Retrieved on 2009-12-30.

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