Background: The WORTHLESS “reposition global warming as theory” ‘leaked memos’

Al Gore and the people supporting and following him all but plead with the public to have total trust in this: the only opposition to the idea of harmful man-caused global warming is a handful of shill ‘experts’ who receive fossil fuel money in exchange for lies downplaying that harm. The industry corruption accusation sounds plausible enough all by itself, but if anyone innocently asks what evidence exists proving it true, they are often met with sweeping generalized references to reports of ‘Exxon knowing’ about the harm, or to books such as Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt.” But when inquisitive people point out that no such evidence of pay-for-performance arrangements are seen in those writings, Gore & crew might go one step further to say “journalists and academics” show how a deliberate sinister misinformation effort was exposed in leaked memos, where the strategy goal was to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,” which targetedolder less-educated men and young low-income women”. For the benefit of newly arriving readers here, and for those who haven’t yet comprehended just how damaging those worthless memos are to Al Gore and others who push them, allow me to explain:

First, to fully understand how worthless the memo set is, the context in which it is presented it must be understood. I’ve been asked many times in various ways, “Why would anyone who’s skeptical about the idea of catastrophic man-caused global warming as established fact not want to reposition it back into the unsupportable theory that it is?” Two problems there: 1) the word “reposition” is an outright false premise implying the idea is established fact and requires any movement at all, and 2) Al Gore & crew aren’t speaking about fact vs. theory in some abstract way, they are using that specific alleged strategy phrase as a weapon, accusing skeptic climate scientists of criminal corruption no differently that the situation in the old tobacco industry.

Gore, An Inconvenient Truth movie, 1:12:41 to 1:13:15 point, with an intervening slide of an old acutely egregious Camel cigarettes advertisement (click image below to enlarge):

The misconception that there’s disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small group of people. One of their internal memos leaked, and here’s what it said, according to the press. Their objective is to reposition global warming as a theory rather than fact. This has happened before. [laughter, at the sight of Camel ad] After the Surgeon General’s report. [Gore chuckles, audience applauds] One of their memos leaked 40 years ago. They said, “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of creating a controversy in the public’s mind.”

Gore’s error about the tobacco memos’ timeline notwithstanding, there is no doubt on what he was implying. The tobacco industry “smoking gun” memo on obfuscation of a known deadly problem is not one bit different than the “reposition global warming” memo.

Gore isn’t the only one implying this. Despite the lack of mention in either Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt” book or movie, it was reported back in 2009 how she was saying the same thing:

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego, compares the strategy of these early groups to that of the tobacco industry, which for decades argued that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer. “Doubt is our product,” Brown & Williamson stated in an internal memo in 1969, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public.” In 1992 a scientific consensus was emerging around the seriousness of global warming, and President George H.W. Bush attended an international climate change conference in Brazil that laid the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol. Around that time the Western Fuels Association–a consortium of coal producers–introduced an ad campaign to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact),” Oreskes details in a forthcoming paper…..

Nearly a decade later right at the current time, the Events and News page for Marin County in California has a link to a page touting its ongoing lawsuit against oil companies where it equates the “reposition global warming” strategy to tactics the tobacco industry used in spreading global warming misinformation. Marin County is one of eight communities using identical wording about those memos in global warming lawsuits to imply skeptic climate scientists are paid shills of a fossil fuel industry effort to spread global warming misinformation.

Why are these memos worthless as evidence to prove fossil fuel industry executives paid skeptic scientists to mislead the country about the harm of man-caused global warming?

Quite simply, neither the scientists or the executives ever saw the memos. How can there be a conspiracy to operate under the direction of such memos if they were never used by the ‘participants’?

In 2009 when I first learned that Ross Gelbspan had ‘exposed’ this ‘conspiracy,’ I didn’t simply accept it without question, I took the extra step to directly ask the scientists (accounting for name swaps, of course) allegedly involved what they knew about these memos.

  • Dr Craig Idso’s response, on behalf of his father Dr Sherwood Idso: “My father does not recall such a memo and he never kept track of such things. Sorry.
  • Dr Robert Balling’s response: “I really do not recall such a memo.
  • Dr Patrick Michaels’ response: “You know, I don’t recall ever having seen such a memo. That doesn’t mean that it does not exist, but I surely do not have any copy. Please do send me what you have found so far!
  • Dr Singer’s response: “If I can find a multi-millionaire willing to underwrite the legal expenses, I would sue them all: desmog, Gelbspan, Begley etc Tx for keeping me apprised

But I didn’t stop there, as it might be plausible that the scientists could have been only generally instructed on what to do by fossil fuel industry administrators who operated by those memos’ guidelines. So, my relentless pursuit of this ultimately exploited the expertise and clout of article writer / researcher extraordinaire Ron Arnold, who secured personal interviews with several key figures involved in the Western Fuels Association’s pilot project “Information Council for the Environment” (ICE) public relations campaign that supposedly operated under those memos’ strategy and targeting phrases. As Arnold reported in his “Left Exposed: Naomi Oreskes Warps History,”

the WFA CEO never even saw it, and when interviewed and I asked about it, he said WFA would never use “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” because it was too abstract and egg-headed for its rural audience. WFA’s communications director says that, unlike his CEO, he saw the page and had no idea how to “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact),” so he left it in the pile

This corroborates what was already reported back in Matt Wald’s 1991 New York Times article, where another person associated with the ICE campaign called the memo set (which also suggested name alternatives) “unsolicited and not followed.” And it corroborates what Ross Gelbspan was told about the memo set’s targeting goal.

See the problem? Al Gore says Exxon itself was guided by this “reposition global warming” strategy in efforts to orchestrate fake front group misinformation persuasion efforts. How can this be possible, if all but one of the key people accused of initially orchestrating it never even saw it, and the one who did was baffled by what the strategy meant?

Then, pile on all the rest of the problems associated with it:

This all boils down to an elemental set of questions: Is it not plausible that Al Gore, upon failing to prompt a national news media figure to effectively trash skeptic climate scientists, felt a need to resort to ‘Plan B’ in which an already friendly-to-the-cause ex-reporter – Gelbspan – could do the deed instead? Was this ‘Plan B’ further molded to fit a documentary movie presentation in which an already friendly-to-the-cause academic – Oreskes – could be prompted to generate a science journal study that Gore could use as a segue straight into a comparison of the old tobacco industry leaked memo to the allegedly ICE “reposition global warming” memo directive? Was the entire goal overall to leave the public with the easily repeated talking point, “there’s a scientific consensus about this settled debate, naysayer ‘scientists’ are shills paid by fossil fuel interests to spread misinformation, thus journalists may ignore these shills”?

And ultimately, did Oreskes, Gelbspan and Gore know this “reposition global warming” memo subset was never used at all, and thus is not the sinister industry directive out of the ICE campaign that they portray it to be, but used it to maliciously impugn the credibility of skeptic climate scientists as part of a larger effort to deliberately distract the public away from material which seriously undercuts the idea of catastrophic man-caused global warming?
Fifth* in a four part series. *[1/25/19 Author’s addition:  But wait, there’s still more.]