No, not the new lawyer who will soon send the “private empire” billable hours for his defense work in the New York AGprobe, though that’s a story for another day. Exxon is hiring for a climate change researcher to work in its Annandale, New Jersey research park facility.
“We are seeking a candidate to advance research and assessment providing fundamental understanding on global climate change issues,” reads the job description.
“The candidate would lead research in areas such as Earth systems science and the role of technologies and systems in managing the risks posed by global climate change. The successful candidate will develop collaborative research efforts, contribute significant publications, contribute to assessments (e.g., the IPCC) and demonstrate strong scientific leadership within both the corporation and external scientific community…Significant demonstrated experience in researching Earth systems science, integrated assessment and energy modeling is preferred. ”
In a story running two days after Exxon announced it would be hiring, InsideClimate news reported on the deep cuts in the 1980’s to Exxon’s climate research program.
“Facing a budget crunch and sensing that any government efforts to clamp down on carbon pollution were a long way off, Exxon terminated two especially innovative experiments,” detailed InsideClimate. “The cuts reversed the course that the company followed in the late 1970s, when top company scientists warned Exxon’s management for the first time of the risks of climate change, and launched internal research programs unparalleled among its oil industry peers.”
Why cut climate research, though? The company calculated correctly — in large part due to its own lobbying and denial echo chamber efforts — that no strong regulations to curtail greenhouse gas emissions loomed on either the domestic or global level.
COP Writing on Wall or PR?
So why hire a climate researcher now? Perhaps Exxon sees the writing on the wall, as it did the first time around the block in the 1970’s, that climate change is a global priority that demands attention.
“When it comes to COP21, we are hopeful that an agreement will be reached for meaningful action to address the risks surrounding climate change,” the company wrote. “We encourage those gathered in Paris to embrace a principled approach to climate change risk. Such an approach holds great promise for ensuring that effective action will be taken to meet this global challenge.”
Considering these facts, the Exxon climate research hire appears much more likely to fit under the umbrella of Exxon’s ongoing crisis communications PR plan, as the company continues to spend big lobbying for status quo (industry friendly) climate and energy policies.
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