Hayhoe morally grew up while working for Exxon. She tells the story of her experience as an illustration of how major energy companies rely on scientists to exploit nature while in their public pronouncements they disguise and dis-inform people about how their industry is destroying the biosphere (see also this report from Business Insider) that supports the existence of humans and other species. This presents a conundrum for many scientists who have graduated with huge debts.
So now, if Exxon came calling, what would I do?Science is a disciplined method of obtaining truth, but shareholders of corporations demand profits which legally trumps the pursuit of truth. Wealth usually wins the battle against truth because it is buttressed by a system (it has a name--"capitalism") that legitimatizes and supports the priority of the pursuit of wealth regardless of its harmful effects. It is easy to see how this morally conflictive issue also affects highly trained people in other industries, especially those whose profits are derived from the production of weapons (euphemistically known as the "defense industry").
There’s no one right answer to this question. Speaking for myself, I might ask them to give those funds to politicians who endorse sensible climate policy – and cut their funding to those who don’t. Or I admire one colleague’s practical response: to use a Koch-funded honorarium to purchase a lifetime membership in the Sierra Club.
Despite the fact that there’s no easy answer, it’s a question that’s being posed to more and more of us every day, and we cannot straddle the fence any longer. As academics and scientists, we have some tough choices to make; and only by recognizing the broader implications of these choices are we able to make these decisions with our eyes wide open, rather than half shut.