Climate Denial, Greenwashing, and Delayed Climate Action: The Corporatization of Academia?

Monday, November 25, 2019 - 3:30pm

This teach-in will give participants the background and tools to critically examine greenwashing by fossil fuel companies and how it relates to reputable institutions like MIT. Greenwashing is defined as “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” This (dis)information can take many forms, including advertising, exaggerated promises or claims, and corporate alignments with institutions that serve the public good, like universities. It is necessary for us as a concerned public to be able to identify greenwashing as a key step in empowering us to pinpoint false claims, make informed decisions about university-corporation alliances, and protect our institutional values. 

The event will be held in MIT’s primary lecture hall 54-100, which has been proposed to be renamed to the “Shell Auditorium” in exchange for a $3 million donotation for renovating the space. What does MIT gain from this partnership? Join us for the greenwashing teach-in and follow up discussion to learn more.

Event details:

Expert presenters and community members will come together to understand:

  • What is greenwashing and how are fossil fuel companies using reputable institutions to improve their reputations and keep us burning fossil fuels?

  • How has Shell in particular engaged in climate denial, greenwashing, and delayed climate action?

  • How does greenwashing by oil companies affect climate action? 

  • What is MIT's history and political legacy on climate change?

  • Beyond this event, what are some other ways that we can engage in climate action as scientists?


Ortal Ullman (Campaign Coordinator in Climate and Energy, Union of Concerned Scientists) In their role, they work with science experts and activists to build and demonstrate support for clean energy and climate accountability campaigns. 

Geoffrey Supran (Research Associate in History of Science, Harvard University; Research Associate in IDSS, MIT). Geoffrey is a world-renowned expert in the history of global warming politics; particularly the climate communications, denial, and delay tactics of fossil fuel interests. Geoffrey has briefed U.S. Senators and Governors, testified as an expert witness to European Parliament and the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, and co-authored several amicus briefs in support of climate litigation. He holds a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT, where he also helped lead the fossil fuel divestment campaign Fossil Free MIT.

Patrick Brown (Postdoctoral researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative) studies technical and regulatory strategies for integrating high levels of renewable energy and energy storage onto the electric grid. He completed his Ph.D. in physics at MIT and was a leader in the Fossil Free MIT campaign.

EAPS community members