Look who’s hiring a climate researcher (it’s Exxon)

Exxon Mobil is looking for a PhD engineer, scientist, or economist who can “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.” Well, that’s interesting.

Job ads can offer a useful peek into what companies actually want to do, and corporate watchdogs routinely comb them for clues. The current job posting has come to light in the immediate aftermath of apparently successful global climate talks in Paris and not long after a series of public spats between Exxon Mobil and journalists investigating its history of climate research. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is probing the company’s past climate change disclosures and communications with industry groups about climate risk. Exxon’s effort to hire a climate researcher was spotted this morning by activists at DeSmog Blog.

Yet there’s nothing to suggest that Exxon Mobil is quietly signaling a sea-change to its long-established positions on climate—or even that that the oil giant has created a new job at its New Jersey research facility. A similar position was posted last spring, according to another climate commentator. The person who fills the role would help steer the company’s basic research into climate change science, emissions reduction, and alternative energy sources.

Exxon Mobil has conducted research into climate change for many years. Recent investigations published by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times lay out what the company had documented about climate change risk, and when, and suggest that the company later ignored or denied it. The latest clash occurred when the company accused journalists at Columbia University, who reported the LA Times piece, of dubious reporting; the dean of the journalism school responded less than two weeks later. The company rejects the storyline that it “knew” about climate change, stopped funding research, and started pretending the whole thing wasn’t happening.

What Exxon Mobil may have succeeded in here, inadvertently or otherwise, is to announce a job posting when it is likeliest to draw lots of attention — and therefore applicants.