Major Cracks Emerge in Research Methodology at Center of New Oreskes/Supran Paper

It’s only been a week since Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran entered back into the chat with a new “Exxon Knew” study, and, like their past work as part of this campaign, the cracks are already beginning to show. A deeper look at the latest study has led to questions regarding the methodology used by the two researchers who have a long track record of engaging in paid and coordinated activism against American energy companies to support a litigation campaign they helped create.  

Back At It Again 

As Energy In Depth pointed out last week immediately after the study was published, the authors of the study are far from objective researchers. The primary author is University of Miami professor Geoffrey Supran, a self-described “scientist and an activist” who in 2016 endorsed “engineer[ing] Exxon out of business” and more recently advised the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee during its nothingburger investigation of the energy industry.  

Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes, who “conceived” the infamous 2012 La Jolla conference where the entire climate litigation campaign began, also contributed to the study. Oreskes was also a paid consultant for the plaintiffs’ law firm Sher Edling – a fact that was finally acknowledged in this latest study and had gone undisclosed in her previous research. Not to mention that she had the outcome of her studies determined in 2015 – prior to their publishing. 

Notably, Supran and Oreskes have faced fierce criticism for their 2017 analysis of internal industry documents, which was found to be “unreliable, invalid, biased, not generalizable and not replicable” by Professor Kimberly Neuendorf, Ph.D., an expert in content analysis whose method was cited by Supran and Oreskes in a previous report. Neuendorf also noted that the pair’s long record of a very public bias against ExxonMobil and fossil fuel companies “violates basic tenets of scientific research.”  

The same bias is evident in this latest study, which is also co-authored by Stefan Rahmstorf, a German climatologist who leads the research department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The authors ascribe intent to the company’s climate modeling and communications, a conclusion that goes beyond the “scientific” findings of the article. 

Now, after a first review of the study, Energy In Depth has identified several glaring flaws with the research that massively undercut the conclusions pushed by the authors.


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