People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C., et al.

If you are an enviro-activist with access to lawyers and mega-money who believes catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) is caused by evil fossil fuel industries who ignore this harm to humanity to protect their profits, you don’t simply whine about this problem, you file giant lawsuits against those industries.

This has already been done in the three major global warming nuisance cases Connecticut v American Electric Power, Comer v Murphy Oil, and Kivalina v Exxon.** [Author’s 10/26/17 note: the entire site containing this file has gone non-functional; no matter, it’s archive Kivalina PDF file is here.] More recently, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined with 19 or so other state Attorneys General to hold ExxonMobil accountable for failing to tell its shareholders about the perils of CAGW while supposedly knowing about the harm of it for decades.

However, Schneiderman is getting nowhere in his efforts, and the three global warming nuisance cases already fell apart one by one – the Supreme Court dismissed Connecticut v AEP on June 20, 2011. On March 20, 2012, Comer v Murphy Oil came to its final end. The 9th District Court put the nail in the coffin of Kivalina v Exxon on September 21, 2012, prompting some to wonder if this was the end of climate tort litigation.

What a silly question. If at first you don’t succeed with winning your global warming nuisance lawsuits, try, try again. Including the idea of repackaging them as suing for the “costs” of CAGW rather than for “damages.”

Witness the September 19th news about the new nearly identical twin complaints filed in the Bay area counties, People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C., et al., San Francisco Superior Court Case CGC 17-561370 and People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C., et al., Alameda County Superior Court Case RG17875889.

However, these latest twin cases are plagued with essentially the same problems as all of the previous CAGW court cases. The lesser of these problems is that courtrooms are not the right places to decide whether scientific conclusions are sound. The larger and arguably fatal problem is that in order to make the case that skeptic scientists’ climate assessment reports are worthless, the skeptic scientists must be portrayed as paid shills of the fossil fuel industry. Why is this particular problem fatal? Because it involves reliance on a literally unsupportable accusation promulgated by a small clique of people who’ve been involved in pushing that accusation for the last 10 and 20 years.

I detailed that problem last year at American Thinker regarding ‘the usual suspects’ appearing in NY AG Schneiderman’s anti-Exxon efforts. Basically, three names jumped out at me within a January 2016 email leaked from enviro-activists intent on nailing Exxon: attorney Matt Pawa, and ex-Greenpeace / ex-Ozone Action organization administrators John Passacantando and Kert Davies.

I recognized the names from their direct ties to what I call “the epicenter” of the smear of skeptic climate scientists, and their association in one form or another with global warming alarmist book author Ross Gelbspan, the main person who got the first media traction for so-called evidence that’s been essentially the sole “smoking gun” material used to indict skeptic climate scientists of industry corruption: the set of supposedly leaked memos with the strategy to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.” Al Gore’s 2006 movie spelled out that odd fragment phrase full screen in red letters, comparing it to an infamous leaked memo from the tobacco industry, and his movie companion book said Gelbspan discovered it. Matt Pawa cited this same set of memos in his Kivalina v Exxon case, and Passacantando’s and Davies’ Ozone Action organization claimed it had ‘obtained’ them back in 1996. Damaging as that set of memos may appear, it turns out they are worthless because when read in the full context where they are collected, they are obviously not the sinister top-down industry-wide directive that Gelbspan and Gore portray them to be. Worse, it has been independently confirmed that they did not come from the place where Gelbspan and Gore said they came from.

How does this tie in to the two most recent California CAGW court cases?

  • Matt Pawa’s name appears at the bottom of both complaints, pro hac vice (meaning an attorney who’s not been admitted to practice in a particular jurisdiction is allowed to participate in a specific case in that jurisdiction). I detailed more of Pawa’s prior associations in greater detail here.
  • Kert Davies is the source for the New York Times’ article cited in the complaints, regarding the accusation about Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Dr Willie Soon being paid $1.2 million dollars. I detailed the faults with the NYT citing Davies here.
  • While the complaints cite a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) regarding the accusation that American Thinker article contributor Dr S Fred Singer was paid Exxon money to “attack mainstream science,” consideration must be given to the fact that, 1) UCS revealed their own enslavement to the “reposition global warming” memos in 2015; 2) that the UCS report cited in the complaints thanks Kert Davies while citing Ross Gelbspan’s website twice; and 3) the complaints’ wording about “attacks on mainstream science” in regard to Dr Singer sounds eerily similar to what Ross Gelbspan said at the 11:05 point in his March 2006 presentation at the Earthlands Retreat Center:

Western Fuels, which is a 400 million dollar coal operation, it was very candid in its annual report. It said it was out to attack mainstream scientists, it hired three scientists who were skeptical of this, phenomenon, Pat Michaels, Bob Balling, Fred Singer. It turned out they paid these three scientists more than a million dollars under the table … they sent these scientist all over the country to do a lot of media interviews and lectures and appearances, and so forth. We got a copy of the strategy papers for that campaign. And it says specifically that the campaign is designed to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” ….

That statement is full of inaccuracies. The bit about Western Fuels’ status is misinformation. Western Fuels had no such declaration in its annual reports. Dr Singer was never part of that campaign. Drs Michaels and Balling were not sent all over the country. And the so-called strategy statement Gelbspan speaks of was never part of Western Fuels’ short-lived basically unseen public relations campaign.

There isn’t just one or two questionable assertions within the ‘industry-corrupted skeptic climate scientists’ accusation, it is besieged with fatal problems. Start with these California cases and work backwards from there; it soon becomes evident that it isn’t ‘Big Oil’ who should be investigated over racketeering to keep their industry alive, it’s a small clique of enviro-activists who were facing disappearing income flow if the public lost all faith in the idea of catastrophic man-caused global warming because of what skeptic climate scientists have to say.
[Author’s addition:  Pt. 1 of a 3-part series. Pt. 2: “San Mateo / Marin / Imperial Beach v. Chevron Corp., et al.For the sake of brevity geared toward a larger reading audience, a condensed version of the post above appears at AmericanThinker, “The Greens versus ‘Big Oil’.” My thanks to Anthony Watts for reproducing the condensed version at WUWT.]