The more frequently these global warming lawsuits appear claiming fossil fuel industry executives paid skeptic climate scientists to participate in sinister disinformation campaign efforts to undercut the ‘settled science,’ the easier it is to show how the ‘evidence’ for that accusation implodes. This Minnesota vs. API, et al. lawsuit, filed on 6/24/20, ends up being a case study on how to commit political suicide, first via its enslavement to the same two sets of worthless ‘leaked industry memos’ which have been floated ever since the 1990s as proof of that corporate / skeptic conspiracy, and second, via its links for copies of those memos from one of the central members of the small clique of enviro-activists who’ve been promulgating them that whole time.
If the Minnesota AG’s office had undertaken the most basic kind of due diligence to find out if the ‘leaked memos evidence’ actually proves the existence of disinformation campaigns, it might not have wasted any taxpayer money filing the lawsuit. Without that ‘evidence,’ the lawsuit would struggle to disprove hugely detailed assessments from skeptic climate scientists, while also trying to prove API and the other defendants ever actually accepted the ‘science’ of the IPCC / Al Gore side of the issue.
No joke, this 84 page Minnesota lawsuit could be boiled down to a single massively dubious authoritative statement, with a giant arrow pointing to where the central pillar of it collapses:
Minnesota has harmfully warmed due to Defendants’ actions, Defendants knew of this harm, but their own internal memos stating ‘victory will be achieved when we reposition global warming as theory rather than fact’ were used to create disinformation campaigns designed to purposefully downplay the role that the consumption of their products played in causing this warming, and since they profiteered from avoiding the costs of dealing with global warming, Defendants — not Minnesota taxpayers — should bear the costs of those impacts.
I’ll begin with the news item that alerted me to the lawsuit. It’s a critical element pointing a giant arrow to who the long-term promulgators of the ‘industry-corrupted skeptics’ accusation are, which ultimately prompts the big question I’ll have at the end of this post.
The news item was the 6/24/20 “Minnesota Sues Fossil Fuel Industry for Climate Fraud” Climate Docket report. Climate-who? It initially looked like a new name to me, but a quick check of its About page immediately revealed a problem I already knew about.
The Climate Docket is a project funded by donations to Climate Communications & Law … The editorial content of CLN is not subject to approval or influence by CCL or its donors.
CLN? That’s a typo, it should say “Climate Docket” there. CLN is short for the Climate Liability News website.
To borrow a phrase from Al Gore, “we’ve seen this before.” I covered that specific line about CLN in my October 27, 2017 blog post, using CLN’s About page to show how one of the board members of Climate Communications & Law was Kert Davies. Unknown to me until writing this post, CLN changed its name to Climate Docket. They’re just a bit careless about the older content of their pages. Meanwhile, same old Kert Davies. Remember that name, it will come up again below. The editorial content of Climate Docket is not subject to approval or influence by CCL? Right.
Now, regarding the Minnesota vs. API, et al. lawsuit itself, an acute irony is how the first-named defendant is the API. Within the “Defendants Made Misleading Statements” section, the lawsuit contends its claims of fossil fuel industry disinformation campaigns is supported by the set of leaked memos commonly known as the notorious 1998 API “victory will be achieved…” memo set.
As I’ve noted in every one of my blog posts on the global warming lawsuits referencing that API memo set, and within my Backgrounder post dissecting the outright worthlessness of this set, it was
unsolicited* and never implemented. Worse, whatever its status was, it contains zero indication that anyone involved would be trying to implement something they knew was false. More embarrassing, the basic statements that were supposed to be ‘smoking gun’ evidence are hardly more than truisms that could be mirror-flipped to illustrate what groups like Greenpeace would consider to be victories after public acceptance of their own environmentalist viewpoints. [*Author’s 5/13/21 note: this is corrected/clarified here]
Next, the Minnesota vs. API, et al. lawsuit places great faith in one other memo set to claim disinformation campaigns exist. It’s on page 32, the notorious “reposition global warming” memos attributed to the Information Council for the Environment (ICE) public relations campaign, which supposedly targeted “lower-income women.”
As I’ve noted in every one of my blog posts on the global warming lawsuits referencing that alleged ICE memo set, and within my Backgrounder post dissecting the outright worthlessness of this set, it was a separate unsolicited proposal for name titles and audience targeting that was never part of the genuine ICE campaign.
When rejected proposals like the ones for API and the ICE campaign are never seen by anyone outside the initial small circles of people who viewed and tossed them out, they are therefore not viable evidence proving the existence of any industry-orchestrated / industry-funded disinformation campaigns operating under the direction of those memos. Al Gore claimed that “Exxon Mobil has funded 40 different front groups that have all been a part of a strategic persuasion campaign to, in their own words ‘reposition global warming as theory rather than fact’.” How would any executive at Exxon know of those words when they were buried in a landfill somewhere in the eastern U.S.?
Among various other bits of so-called ‘evidence’ in the lawsuit’s “Defendants Made Misleading Statements” section, those two memo sets are the most damaging ones the lawsuit offers. That’s it. That is literally the best this lawsuit or any other one advancing the ‘industry orchestrated / funded skeptics’ accusation has to offer.
Regarding the long-term promulgators of these worthless memos – notice what the source is for the online website showing these memo sets:
It’s cited no less than twenty times in this lawsuit: ClimateFiles.com, the ‘new’ website I detailed in my October 27, 2017 blog post, it’s the “platform” for the Climate Investigations Center …… which is operated by Kert Davies. The same man who ‘has no approval or influence’ over news from CLN/Climate Docket, who’s been disseminating the news about the “victory will be achieved” / “reposition global warming” memo sets going all the way back to the 1990s.
In the lawsuit’s attempt to claim the ICE PR campaign pushed disinformation, it unintentionally reinforced Davies’ longtime involvement. Its citation for the newspaper ads supposedly used in the ICE campaign doesn’t go to Climate Files (it could have, inadvertently revealing a hugely problematic situation with one of the alleged ads), it instead goes to a Union of Concerned Scientists Dossier report. Problem is, UCS isn’t the original holder of the ‘ICE documents,’ as I detailed in my July 9, 2015 blog post. They cited Greenpeace, the place where Kert Davies worked as an accuser against Exxon prior to 2013. Who provided Greenpeace with them? John Passacantando (remember that name, it’ll come up next). When he merged his Ozone Action group into Greenpeace USA, he brought the 50 pages of memos / ad scans – including the Ozone Action cover page with him. His top co-worker at Ozone Action was Kert Davies, but Ozone Action never said where they ‘obtained’ all of those pages.
Same primary pair of worthless ‘leaked memo’ sets used to indict skeptic climate scientists of colluding with industry executives, same Kert Davies, seen not only with John Passacantando back in the early days of the accusation, but also apparently in recent efforts to portray Exxon as a corrupt institution, with Davies technically popping up once again unnamed in this very latest lawsuit. As I detailed in my February 13, 2020 blog post, Passacantando dropped out of the public eye almost completely after 2011, only to resurface indirectly recently, exposed as an apparent mega-dollar funnel – nearly five million dollars so far if not more – to Davies’ Climate Investigations Center. In my March 30, 2020 blog post, I asked what all that cash bought.
Now for the big ongoing question: unlike the latest Honolulu v. Sunoco lawsuit following nine other boilerplate identical global warming lawsuits being handled by the Sher Edling law firm (with the fingerprints of Kert Davies seemingly on those), the Minnesota vs. API, et al. case is being handled by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, headed by Keith Ellison. Did he or his staff come up with this whole memos-prove-disinformation-campaigns idea all by themselves ……. or does nearly $5 million buy ready-made global warming lawsuit templates that can be distributed to state Attorneys General,** along with talking points distributed to not only those AG offices, but also to any media outlets who never question anything about those ‘leaked memos, and also to so-called “reporters” who work for fellow accusation promulgators which are guaranteed to never question anything about those ‘leaked memos situations?
** Guess what my next post will have to cover: 6/25/20, “DC sues oil companies over climate change”