Background: The epicenter for the ‘Industry-corrupted Skeptic Climate Scientists’ Accusation

The origin of the accusation is critical, and begs for investigation because it is what put the accusation into existence in the first place. But the accusation would have died of neglect if it hadn’t gotten major media traction, and resulting additional interest and promotion from that. Where that particular media traction began is the epicenter, and the manner in which it came about, combined with the people surrounding it, is equally if not more worthy of deep investigation.

The reason the epicenter – Ozone Action’s late 1995-’96 involvement with Ross Gelbspan – begs for investigation is that essentially nothing about the situation is straightforward.

As I pointed out in part 3 of this series, the ‘core evidence’ for the idea that skeptic climate accept illicit money in exchange for lies in a sinister conspiracy with fossil fuel industry people is a particular set of leaked memos. These memos turn out not what they’ve long been portrayed to be, but that’s another matter. The critical point here is that during the 1991-’94 timeline of narratives about these leaked memos, the accusation was getting no usable media traction.

The situation changed when an otherwise non-high profile environmentalist group named Ozone Action stepped in, sometime in late 1995. One would think at this time that the defunct-since-2000 Ozone Action would be highly praised as a heroic organization which shined the light of truth on a nefarious industry plot, with concrete recollections about the place. However …

material apparently stemming from one of the co-founders blurs the picture of whether Ozone Action was founded in 1992 or 1993. No joke, 1992 or in its own official web page, 1993. But is that contradicted by footnote #58 within this early 1993 “Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol” review which cites “Ozone Action, “The Montreal Protocol and Its Implications,” no. 4 (September 1992):4.”?

Ozone Action was co-founded by John Passacantando and Karen Lohr (full text here, on the August 2000 story of how Ozone Action and Passacantando were merging into Greenpeace USA, hence my term “Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action”), and an official old Ozone Action page confirms that about Lohr. There’s virtually no other mention of other co-founders anywhere …. except from long-time Al Gore spokesperson Kalee Kreider, who basically said she ‘built Ozone Action.’ This is an acutely odd declaration to make, essentially repeated at Kreider’s Fenton Communications bio page and at her own resumé page in the bits where she says she “Created and deployed the first media strategy for a start-up NGO” and “Assisted in all aspects of the start up”, since her resumé says her work time at Ozone Action was between “February 1995 – August 1996.”

Such technical problems are one thing. Crippling appearance problems beg for deeper examination.

When Ozone Action was described as “working exclusively on global warming,” this was troublesome enough that no less than IPCC climate scientist Dr Stephen Schneider brought up the fatal problem in his 2002 “Climate Change Policy: A Survey” book’s page 47 discussion of the confusing association between ozone depletion and global warming (full chapter text here):

It doesn’t help that one of the most visible environmental advocacy groups fighting for action against global warming was called Ozone Action.

Not helping matters any better was an apparent effort to remedy this odd situation by saying Ozone Action was devoted to both ozone depletion and global warming at the same time.

Why were they called Ozone Action in the first place? Because the supposed ozone layer depletion crisis was originally their exclusive focus. The key to understanding why this organization is the epicenter for the smear of skeptic climate scientists is seeing exactly when their focus switched from ozone depletion to global warming. Ozone Action itself announced when this transition happened:

Ozone Action is a non-profit, public interest organization founded in July 1993 to raise public awareness on stratospheric ozone depletion. …

Since December 1995, Ozone Action has also been working on climate change.

What also took place in December 1995? The publication of Ross Gelbspan’s “THE HEAT IS ON: The Warming of the World’s Climate Sparks a Blaze of Denial” article in Harper’s Magazine, and Gelbspan’s first public mention of the leaked memo phrases he says came from the Western Fuels Association’s “Information Council for the Environment” public relations campaign.

This would ordinarily be just a coincidence if it weren’t for this other Ozone Action 1996 statement that I’ve shown multiple times here in a screencapture, which I show below for emphasis from a later, less annoyingly-colored archive web page version (click to enlarge):


According to documents obtained by Ozone Action and by Ross Gelbspan, several ICE strategies were laid out including: the repositioning of global warming as theory, not fact …

The above quotes were in Ozone Action’s “Ties that Blind” reports, the first of which were cited in Gary Lee’s Washington Post March 21, 1996 “Industry Funds Global Warming Skeptics” article (full text here), an event remembered almost 19 years later by Kalee Kreider …. who gives thanks to Ross Gelbspan instead of Ozone Action for that. Understandably so, because it’s neither Ozone Action nor Gary Lee who are widely and glowingly credited with exposing the ‘industry corruption of skeptic climate scientists’, it’s Gelbspan.

Odd thing about that, Gelbspan gives no accolades that I can find to Ozone Action for turning up those supposedly Western Fuels ICE campaign-sourced leaked memos. As I noted in my October 4, 2013 blog post in longer detail, he says he obtained them….. as contrasted with Ozone Action’s John Passacantando saying his organization obtained the memos – with no credit to Gelbspan in that specific event.

No doubt for the people of the old Ozone Action organization and Ross Gelbspan, the exact details of who obtained those memos how, when and where is water under the bridge. For objective investigative journalists and/or congressional investigators, those exact details may reveal just how this Ozone Action / Ross Gelbspan 1995-’96 epicenter for the smear of skeptic climate scientists ended up with the material allowing them to become the epicenter.

The rest is history. Apart from a few insiders among that clique of people at Ozone Action, virtually no enviro-activists remember Gary Lee’s WashPo article, the “Ties that Blind” reports, or Ozone Action. Gelbspan got his “The Heat is On” book with those leaked memo phrases in it published in 1997, with the larger outgrowth being how it became basically the single source for the entire allegation that skeptic climate scientists are crooks on the payroll of ‘big coal & oil.’

What this boils down to is elemental: skeptic climate scientists and anyone associated with them are smeared as ‘paid industry shills’, but this accusation is not an omnipresent untraceable one. It is comprised of 1) an easily dissected core accusation narrative; 2) an easily found ‘core evidence’ supposedly backing up the accusation; 3) an easily found epicenter of the smear; 4) and Ross Gelbspan at the center of it all as basically the sole source for the whole accusation … a person besieged with readily found myriad problems, including his total lack of evidence proving skeptic climate scientists are in a pay-for-performance arrangement with industry people.

Houston, we have a problem. Without the excuse to dismiss those skeptics as untrustworthy crooks, there is no reason why the public or the media should not consider the climate assessments that are put out in migraine-inducing detail by these skeptics, which, in the barest of nutshell explanations, points out that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has not conclusively made the case that what little global warming we’ve seen over the last 150 years is primarily caused by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.
Last in a four part series.