Editor’s Note: Unfortunately disruption has made this edition of The Badger a little different. Unavoidable circumstances meant that this edition was delayed. Consequently, some of these articles are a little older and we haven’t been able to get the newest stories to you this time. However, we think that it is fair that those who wrote great articles have them published, and these important stories are read by you.
By Anurag Venugopal, Staff Writer
Elsevier, a leading Dutch publishing company which is behind many renowned peer-reviewed scientific journals, is under fire by scientists working under them as it has been revealed that the company works with the fossil fuel industry to help increase oil and gas drilling. The company, by commissioning authors and journal advisory board members who are employees at some of the major oil firms, has pushed for industry’s efforts to optimize oil and gas extraction.
Elsevier, to help “increase the odds of exploration success”, markets its research portals and data collection services directly to oil and gas companies. Several employees have spoken out, internally and externally, in a bid to make Elsevier reconsider the relationship they have with the fuel companies.
One such employee who preferred to remain anonymous spoke to The Guardian about the company’s tactics.
They said “When I first started, I heard a lot about the company’s climate commitments… Eventually I just realized it was all marketing, which is really upsetting because Elsevier has published all the research it needs to know exactly what to do if it wants to make a meaningful difference.”
Elsevier’s relationship as one of the few companies that publishes peer-reviewed climate research, becomes formidable as their conflicting business interests start undermining the work of the scientists and academics who have worked or are closely working with the company.
An important service of Elsevier’s is providing a tool called Geofacets, a combination of thousands of maps and studies, to their corporate clients which in turn makes it easier for them to find and access oil or gas reserves, in addition to the locations of wind farms and carbon storage facilities. Elsevier states the tool cuts research time by 50% and helps in locating “riskier, more remote areas that had previously been inaccessible.”
While top climate scientists have strongly suggested against that as they claim that to limit warming to 1.5C or less, the fossil fuel production needs to be cut down by leaving 80% of resources still in the ground.
Julia Steinberger, a social ecologist and ecological economist from Université de Lausanne, who has published several articles through the company journals, expressed her astonishment at the company’s relationship with the fossil fuel companies.
“Elsevier is the publisher of some of the most important journals in the environmental space,” she said. “They cannot claim ignorance of the facts of climate change and the urgent necessity to move away from fossil fuels.”
She added: “Their business model seems to be to profit from publishing climate and energy science, while disregarding the most basic fact of climate action: the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels.”
Amidst the controversy, Elsevier and its parent company, RELX, say they are committed to supporting the fossil fuel industry as they transition toward clean energy and further have stated that they are not inclined to draw a line between the transition away from fossil fuels and expansion of oil and gas extraction, amidst concerns of publishers boycotting the gas and fuel firms.
Founding global head of corporate responsibility, Márcia Balisciano, told The Guardian, “We recognize that we are imperfect and we have to do more, but that shouldn’t negate all of the amazing work we have done over the past 15 years.”