“Climate Homicide: Prosecuting Big Oil For Climate Deaths” Part 2

I wrote about the main fault with the ludicrous draft paper submitted to the Harvard Law Review in Part 1, namely the paper authors’ enslavement to a particular set of literally worthless ‘leaked industry memos’, and the funding association of one of the authors, David Arkush. But as usual, there’s more. Arkush apparently has quite a basic problem with making authoritative statements — hold that thought for just a bit. First, let me say I don’t simply write about these collective situations, I try to get something done about them.

Before I began writing my Part 1 post, I fired off the following email, verbatim, on 3/28/23 to the board members of Harvard Law Review (note: in my Part 1 blog post, I used screencaptures from the PDF file for the paper from the version that made its big news splash on 3/20/23. Thus my images show the page 26 I mention below with footnotes 130-131-132. The authors added two more footnotes much farther up in the paper, one that they’d apparently forgotten in the first draft, and another on what is arguably an irrelevant point. This accounts for their “Revised 3/24/23” version. Theoretically speaking, they could keep on altering until its next year’s publication.)

Harvard Law Review staff,

Forgive me for not knowing how the ‘papers submitted for approval’ system works within Harvard Law Review, and whether you consider public input regarding such drafts. If you do, please allow me to draw your attention to the draft page 26 of the recently submitted “Climate Homicide” paper, paragraph 3, with footnotes 132-133-134 (my copy comes from this site’s downloadable PDF file  https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4335779 ).

To best illustrate what you might consider when analyzing that paragraph, allow me to set up a fictional comparison. Imagine, if you will, a paper submitted for review which posits that Harvard Law Review operates under suspicious motives and is worthy of potential criminal prosecution for its activities, and one particular situation offered as evidence of this is a memo – with no link for its online text or location of where the text can be found – from a person nobody readily recognizes in the legal profession, in which H.L.R.’s Anna Todd and Evan Wiese are described as:

advocating for the “remov[al] of President Obama from the White House by any means necessary (illegally, if called for) so that he can no longer “be a threat to democracy with his socialist proposals,” but other top conservative leaders have “give[n up]the fight,” saying it wold be wiser to undercut his public approval ratings with myriad op-eds across the country that would seriously “impede his ability to lead” on any matters affecting change in public policy.

Imagine now, that you were able to find the full context of the memo, where it says Anna Todd and Evan Wiese described:

“… the vitriolic talk on right-wing radio which calls for the president to be booted out of office through all available options, ranging from simply removing him via the Romney/Ryan ticket in the 2012 presidential election to literally ousting him in a coup so that he can no longer be a threat to democracy with his socialist proposals, is beyond ludicrous. Those kinds of right wingers need to give up on the fight and realize that illogical efforts to impede his ability to lead actually imperils the needed improvements to the public welfare which all citizens of the country need.”

Now, notice that the authors of the “Climate Homicide: Prosecuting Big Oil For Climate Deaths” paper offer the following paragraph on page 26, where the footnote 130 goes to “Memorandum from Joe Walker to Global Climate Science Team, Am. Petroleum Institute” – with no link for its online text or location of where the text can be found:

For example, in 1998, API drafted a communications plan, with the principal goal of “defeat[ing]” the Kyoto Protocol, emphasizing that victory could not be declared by FFCs until “no further efforts to thwart the threat of climate change” exist. Rather than “ced[ing] the science,”and fighting climate regulation with economic arguments, the plan argued that it would be more effective to sow doubt over whether climate change was happening at all, and if so, it would be more effective to sow doubt over whether climate change was happening at all, and, if so, whether humans “really have any influence on it“…

The text has been online for more than two decades at various online locations. Here’s one example of the massively difficult-to-read photocopy scans version  https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/784572-api-global-climate-science-communications-plan.html . A word-searchable text was available from the National Environmental Trust when that memo was first leaked to the New York Times – it appears after the NET’s press release statement under the double-lined “Memos Follow” heading:  https://web.archive.org/web/19990223192759/http://www.envirotrust.com:80/rel98apr27.html

I ask no more than for you to find the red-highlighted direct quote words from the “Climate Homicide” paper within the actual memo and ask whether the authors of this paper have taken the words so far out of context that it renders the paper as unacceptable for publication.

Given the widespread news of this paper  it, pro and con, and the seriousness of the prosecution suggestions within it, may I further suggest that if the authors’ treatment of the 20 quoted words out of that 9 page 1998 memo stray into a basic breach of scholarly paper ethics, and if you decide to reject it for approval, that you not reject it quietly, but instead prominently explain in a press release statement why it was rejected.

To their credit, I received the following email reply just a few hours later on the very same day:

Dear Mr. Cook,

Thank you for reaching out regarding Climate Homicide. The article will undergo a robust editing, revision, and fact-checking process prior to its publication in our Journal. During this process, our editorial board reviews each assertion for factual accuracy by comparing the text of the original source to the article draft.

Michaela A. Morris
Editor-in-Chief, Volume 48

Will Harvard Law Review actually reject the paper because of the authors’ ham-handed way to portray the 1998 American Petroleum Institute “victory will be achieved” memo set in such an intellectually dishonest manner? I hope I made a good, non-partisan appeal for that. If they do, will they broadcast to the world what the fault was with the authors’ effort there? I’m not holding my breath on that result.

Meanwhile, predictably, there is an additional basic credibility problem with one of the paper’s author’s, David Arkush, managing director, of Public Citizen’s Climate Program.

He was the editor of Public Citizen’s “FOXIC Fox News Network’s Dangerous Climate Denial 2019” report, which unequivocally asserted,

PDF pg 8 / print pg 6: … Justin Haskins is an editorial director and a research fellow at the Exxon Mobil and Koch Foundation-funded Heartland Institute …

PDF pg 9: … Bjorn Lomborg has “ties” .. to the Heartland Institute.

PDF pg 10: … Steyn is often a featured speaker at climate denial conferences hosted bythe Heartland Institute.

PDF pg 10-11: … These events …the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change, are funded by Exxon Mobil, Donors Trust, and the Koch Brothers.

PDF pgs 9-10: … Steve Milloy … In 1998, he helped write the American Petroleum Institute’s strategy to challenge climate science.

  • You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or even a climatologist to find Heartland’s “reply to critics” page in which they unequivocally assert that they receive no such funding from Exxon or the Kochs.
  • Lomborg’s ties? Puh-lease. I’d wager Arkush’s report got that bit from the Desmogblog group, which stretched the ‘association’ accusation completely past the breaking point of credulity by implying Lomborg’s “affiliation” is proven by him being listed within Heartland’s “Guide to Global Warming Experts.” The Society of Environmental Journalists has its own Experts list, which includes Greenpeace. Does Greenpeace therefore have “ties” to the Society of Environmental Journalists? Don’t be ridiculous.
  • A simple review of all Heartland’s climate conferences will reveal just how many times Mark Steyn has spoken at them (hint: I got his autograph from the single time he was a keynote speaker at one).
  • “funded by Exxon Mobil, Donors Trust”? What does that even mean? As the late Ron Arnold detailed within his 2013 movie review of an odious slam against the fossil fuel industry, the anonymous donation system of Donors Trust is hardly different than the same system Greenpeace uses. But even beyond that, the overall ‘funding’ accusation is meaningless when it is devoid of evidence that any instructions came with the money to fabricate disinformation.
  • Regarding the particular bit about Steve Milloy, as I already covered in my Part 1 blog post – perhaps quite subtly, but a little less so this time:  David Arkush would not be able to prove Steve Milloy wrote or helped write the “victory will be achieved” memo if his reputation depended on it.

Like I said in Part 1 and in my other blog posts here at GelbspanFiles, any given prominent person hurling the accusation that ‘fossil fuel industry money was paid to skeptic climate scientists for them to spew lies in disinformation campaigns’ has only two viable-looking bits of ‘evidence’ in their arsenal, the worthless “reposition global warming” memo set and the “victory will be achieved” set. All David Arkush has done here is reinforce that fatal problem. Twice, now.

So if any of the “ExxonKnew & colluded with deniers to spread disinfo” actually ends up in a courtroom while citing a Arkush et al. in any form (e.g. UK Guardian reports about the “paper”), it hands a TV court drama line on a silver platter for the defendant lawyers to exclaim “Objection – goes to credibility!