Britain’s leading scientific body, the Royal Society, has challenged ExxonMobil to stop funding climate sceptics who are attempting to undermine the scientific consensus on global warming.

In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, demands in its letter that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence”. The scientists also strongly criticise Exxon’s own public statements on global warming, which they describe as “inaccurate and misleading”.

In a letter earlier this month to Esso, the UK arm of ExxonMobil, the Royal Society cites its own survey which found that ExxonMobil last year distributed $2.9m to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent the science of climate change.

In the letter, Bob Ward of the Royal Society writes: “At our meeting in July … you indicated that ExxonMobil would not be providing any further funding to these organisations. I would be grateful if you could let me know when ExxonMobil plans to carry out this pledge.”

In a major step ExxonMobil has replied that it has stopped funding one of the worse climate sceptic groups, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, earlier this year.

Only another 38 climate sceptic groups to go.