A Dutch Publisher's Conflicting Interests: Pro-Climate and Pro-Fossil Fuel Research

A Dutch Publisher's Conflicting Interests: Pro-Climate and Pro-Fossil Fuel Research

Elsevier, a Dutch-based publishing firm behind leading science journals that publish climate research, is also a top publisher of books for the fossil fuel industry and provider of research portals, data services, and consultancy services to "increase the [fossil fuel industry's] odds of exploration success," the Guardian reports.

On the surface, the publisher touts its climate goals and commitments to the fossil fuel industry's transition to clean energy, but former employees told the Guardian those claims are more strategic than they are sincere. In fact, Elsevier commissions authors, editors, and journal advisory board members who are employees at top oil firms. Researchers and academics alike are expressing concern that the company is helping oil and gas companies expand drilling while simultaneously publishing research that calls for a worldwide decrease in fossil fuel use.

Elsevier: CEO Kumsal Bayazit on Elsevier's Net Zero Pledge, November 23, 2021.

Greenpeace: Uncovering polluters' offsetting scams, October 26, 2021.

Why This Matters

Elsevier is one of the few publishers of peer-reviewed climate research and scientists worry the company's connections to oil and gas could undermine the integrity of their work. In another seeming contradiction, a spokesperson for Elsevier told the Guardian that the company would not draw a distinction between transitioning away from fossil fuels and expanding oil and gas production.

"Elsevier is the publisher of some of the most important journals in the environmental space," said Julia Steinberger, a social ecologist and ecological economist at the Université de Lausanne, who has published studies in several Elsevier journals. "They cannot claim ignorance of the facts of climate change and the urgent necessity to move away from fossil fuels."

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

Expose and Reform

Over the last year, a number of Elsevier employees have urged the company to reconsider its relationship with big oil at company-wide town hall events. Still, the publisher is just one of many navigating both climate research and oil and gas research -- having signed the UN's Sustainable Development Goals Publishing Compact while also continuing to work with the fossil fuel industry, only proving how interwoven the fossil fuel industry is with the world at large.

"This all happens without the broader public knowing, and it operates to entrench the industry," stated Ben Franta, a PhD Candidate in History at Stanford University who has published studies in Elsevier journals. "To effect a rapid replacement of fossil fuels, I believe these entanglements will need to be exposed and reformed."

TED: Global Warming - From Scientific Warning to Corporate Casualty | Ben Franta, July 20, 2021.

NYU Environmental Studies: The Long Game: How Big Oil Delayed Climate Action For Four Decades | Ben Franta, November 11, 2021.