My December 14, 2018 blog post illustrated how ‘journalist’ Amy Westervelt’s narrative about fossil fuel companies orchestrating disinformation campaigns to undercut public belief in man-caused global warming is a one-trick pony, enslaved to a particular set of worthless ‘leaked memo’ evidence for the notion that fossil fuel industry executives colluded with skeptic climate scientists in this conspiracy. But let’s not stop there. Westervelt also exposed how she is enslaved to one other set of worthless talking points for her narrative, which only ultimately points yet another giant arrow back to the origins of the smear of skeptic climate scientists.
In Westervelt’s November 17, 2018 “Exploiting Scientists’ Kryptonite: Certainty” segment of her Drilled podcasts, she began with an overall setup about sinister fossil fuel industry disinformation efforts, the funding behind them, and then began offering the following about their alleged ultimate goals starting at the 2:48 point:
It all played into the industry’s strategy for a victory. And we know that because they wrote it down. In a memo that was actually published in the New York Times in the late 1990s. In it, members of the American Petroleum Institute indicate that victory will be achieved when they can successfully help people – air quotes – “understand” that there are uncertainties in climate science, that, quote, recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the – air quotes again – “conventional wisdom.”
Another measure of victory: media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current “conventional wisdom.” The stated project goal in the Victory memo is, “a majority of the American public, including industry leadership, recognizes that significant uncertainties exist in climate science and therefore raises questions among those, e.g. Congress, who chart the future US course on climate change.
Westervelt could have been quoting those bits directly from the April 26,1998 “Industrial Group Plans to Battle Climate Treaty” NYT article itself … if only the specific quotes had appeared in the body of that article beyond two particular words. With a little digging, it’s possible that …..
- She might have been reading the quotes straight from Desmogblog, perhaps (let’s not forget what Desmog was founded upon, though).
- Where does Desmog say the American Petroleum Institute (API) memo quotes are seen beyond its own PDF copy of them? It only says the NYT “obtained” them but cites a Greenpeace report as their source. (the NYT reporter, who later described Ozone Action’s merger into Greenpeace USA, says the National Environmental Trust gave the NYT the memo. Where have we seen that “obtained” wording before?)
- Greenpeace’s 2002 “Denial and Deception” report summarizes the API quotes on page 4,
but readers must go to an alternative Internet Archive PDF file version to read Greenpeace’s lousy quality scans of the API memo, beginning on page 2here. [Author’s 1/15/19 correction: My mistake. When initially reading the footnotes for this, and other references to the API, I assumed that the words “See appendix for full text of memo” meant an appendix attached to that specific 2002 “Denial and Deception” report, which had somehow dropped off the report and necessitated a new PDF file attachment. I was wrong. A subsequent re-reading now shows me where I was wrong – Greenpeace’s 19-20-21 footnotes were referring to an appendix in one of their previous reports, their August 1998 “The Oil Industry and Climate Change,” with its far worse scan images beginning on page 62. Their ’98 report describes the API memo and that it was leaked to the NYT …. but doesn’t say how Greenpeace people got the memo.]
- Who inadvertently reveals that Greenpeace was the first* organization to publicly show those API memos? Desmog’s James Hoggan. [*Author’s 1/15/19 addition: Hoggan apparently made the same mistaken assumption I made about Greenpeace’s timeline for their first publication of the API memo. I’ll detail his other mistake on this matter in my next blog post.]
- The now-dismissed City of New York v. BP global warming lawsuit attempted to rely on the API “Victory” memo to imply an ‘industry executives / skeptic scientists corruption’ situation exists. Notice how that lawsuit filing’s footnote #66 provides an utterly innocuous weblink to the API memo devoid of any source for it. Compare that address to another link where the changes are “www” in place of the word “assets,” a slashmark changes to a dash, and “pdf” changes to “html.” Who does that latter page state as the contributor of the memo? “Kert Davies, Greenpeace.”
- Piling on: Who does Greenpeace thank at the beginning of their overall “Denial and Deception” report for information? Kert Davies and Ross Gelbspan.
There’s an old adage about such situations: give credit where credit is due. Back in 2002 when Greenpeace’s “Denial and Deception” report was a current news item, the late columnist Molly Ivins at least made the proper journalist effort to directly identify Kert Davies’ connection to the report. And, as showed in my September 21, 2017 blog post, a ‘journalist’ at The Real News Network (TRNN) beat Westervelt to the basic storyline with his mention of the API memo and inclusion of Kert Davies’ input, where he also went a step further to identify who Davies was.
Meanwhile, back at Westervelt’s “Drilled” podcast about that API “Victory” memo, who does she immediately feature at the 3:59 point right after all of her quotes of it, for more analysis?
Here’s our document guy Kert Davies on that …..
Interesting. Westervelt can’t bring herself to state what Davies history was. Matt Pawa’s NYC v BP lawsuit and also-dismissed twin California lawsuits do not link to a page directly crediting Davies as the memo source. Neither does the still-current nine boilerplate Sher Edling global warming lawsuits, from last to first.
Those are pure detail problems, of course. The far larger fatal problem is that the API Victory memo is not actually any sort of “smoking gun” evidence to prove a pay-for-performance arrangement exists between skeptic climate scientists and fossil fuel industry executives. Its basic goals are not a sinister industry directive for orchestrating outright misinformation, they are basic truisms for what any pure science-based group of people would want to achieve under a fair-and-balanced situation where all facts are examined. With just slight rewording, the situation could be applied by Greenpeace in a way that would be their version of a victory, where the public sees the dead-certain Greenpeace science.
The question needs to be asked whether such a memo exists within “Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action,” or within the ranks of the core group of people who’ve employed 20+ years of character assassination against skeptic climate scientists.
Victory Will Be Achieved When:
- Average citizens “understand” (recognize) and unquestioningly accept certainties in climate science as disseminated from proclamations by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; recognition of those specific certainties becomes part of the “conventional wisdom”
- Media “understands” (recognizes) that the IPCC reports irrefutably settle the climate science issue and that no opposition of any kind is valid
- Media coverage reflects only the IPCC’s version of climate science; recognizes that association with the fossil fuel industry completely taints the validity of scientific viewpoints that challenge IPCC reports; portrays that industry as corrupt/illegitimate and advocates all to disassociate from it
- Industry senior leadership understands the political and social repercussions of daring to suggest there are uncertainties in climate science
- Those promoting debate about uncertainties in climate science either appear to be out of touch with reality, or better yet, are automatically assumed to be either unwilling or deliberate participants in a disinformation collusion conspiracy involving fossil fuel companies and skeptic climate scientists
- Utterly out-of-context worthless memos are accepted by media and the public as evidence of a pay-for-performance working arrangement between fossil fuel executives and skeptic climate scientists, and are repeated worldwide without question
- A team of pseudo-media propagandists (promoted under false labels such as “Pulitzer winner” when possible) finds and utilizes any sort of internal memos, whether actually implemented or not (*ahem* or not – repeat: or not), to create the impression that a pay-for-performance arrangement between fossil fuel executives and skeptic climate scientists, reminiscent of the way ‘shill experts’ worked with Big Tobacco to undercut the certainty that cigarette smoking was deadly harmful; usage of such worthless memos as evidence is seen in lawsuits intended to force energy companies pay enormous settlements similar to the tobacco settlements
So far, enviro-activists can claim they are victorious in all these efforts when it comes to their portrayal of skeptic climate scientists and fossil fuel industry executives as ‘criminals against humanity.’ The problem is, as ever, that the leaked memo evidence they put so much faith in does not actually prove this to be true at all.