Wednesday, May 11, 2016

AGU Responds On ExxonMobil Partnership

The American Geophysical Union has been engaged in a debate over whether the union should be associated with ExxonMobil, considering that companies activities to undermine climate science (with a great deal of success, I might add). After debating the issue, the AGU board of directors voted to continue its partnership. My response was to resign from the union. The AGU president has responded to my resignation. Her response, and my reply are shown below.

Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:48 PM
Subject: RE: ExxonMobil

Dr. Keating,
I am very disappointed to lose you as a member, but I do respect your decision. Your years of support and engagement with AGU have been very important and meaningful, and I do not take this loss lightly. I will most certainly share your comments and resignation with the rest of the AGU leadership.

This has been a difficult conversation for us to have – particularly knowing how much it would impact our members on both sides of the issue. For several weeks, we have been receiving thoughtful feedback from members like you expressing a variety of views on the subject, ranging from calls to see AGU expel ExxonMobil from our community to calls for us to increase our engagement with them in an effort to influence their corporate policies. Despite that difficulty, we felt that the issues raised presented an opportunity – and an obligation – to directly engage ExxonMobil and the energy industry more broadly, and to bring into that conversation the representatives of governmental, environmental, economic and related scientific sectors. Societal challenges concerning energy use, population growth, climate change and more require that people and organizations with diverse viewpoints and expertise work together. As an evidence-based organization with roots in both the climate and energy communities, AGU is uniquely situated to create an environment for that kind of dialogue. Facilitating that dialogue is something we feel will be incredibly beneficial to our community, our environment and our society world-wide.

While I understand your discomfort with our decision, I sincerely encourage you to consider being a part of the development of a strategy for our engagement with ExxonMobil and the larger energy industry. Our goal is to drive a more transparent and meaningful dialogue about the roles the science and business communities should play in addressing issues where science does – and needs to – inform society, and we hope that you will be a part of that dialogue. We are asking members to share their thoughts on how to best approach engagement with ExxonMobil in the future, and the views of those who are not completely comfortable with the decision are an equally important part of that planning.

I am copying our member services team on this message so that they can process the cancelation of your membership. You should be receiving a confirmation notice from them shortly. Please know that, should you change your mind in the future, we would be more than happy to reinstate your membership.
Again, I thank you for your service. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Thank you for your response but I have to say I was even more disappointed when I read it. Your line of logic is familiar and I recognized it immediately. This is the same rationale used by organizations who refused to disassociate from South Africa during the apartheid era. The analogy is a good one. ExxonMobil has demonstrated it is a criminal organization, willing to subvert science in order to protect its profits, has knowingly engaged in activities that have resulted in a lower standard of living for millions, destruction of the climate and environment, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people annually. And yet, you think you will change the company by continuing to engage them.

They are laughing at you all the way to the bank and will be glad to hold up the fact that the AGU is still in partnership with them.

Thank you for canceling my membership. There is nothing further you will be able to do for me for as long as you chose to associate with criminal organizations.

Christopher Keating

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