The Sierra Club Roaring Silence Problem

If an enviro-activist organization had a key role in exposing the ‘industry corruption of skeptic climate scientists’, wouldn’t basic pride drive them to mention it at least once, if not ad nauseam, as some kind of achievement to attract new donors and members?

I barely scratched the surface in my June 8, 2013 blog post about the way the central illicit funding accusation against skeptic climate scientists – in its successful media traction form – traces to Ross Gelbspan. As I said near the end of that piece, “I could go on with another several hundred repetitions of the accusation“. Gelbspan is roundly applauded as one of the first reporters to break the news of skeptics being paid to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact“. Problem is, he was not employed as a journalist when he first publicized that leaked memo phrase, and he certainly was not the first person to mention it.

My educated guess is that the first professional journalism about that phrase as something supposedly tied to skeptic scientists (which I can’t confirm yet [Author’s 10/12/18 addition: copy now found, details here] ) was seen in either in a Greenwire June 19/20 1991 fax report “Inside Track: Sowing the Seeds of Doubt in the Greenhouse”, or in a pair of reports in The Energy Daily, June 24, 1991 “Greenhouse ads target ‘low income’ women, ‘less educated’ men” and/or July 2, 1991, “ICE gets cool reception at meeting on global warming.”

But unquestionably, the first easily found reproduction of that phrase was in Matt Wald’s New York Times, July 8, 1991 article (click the thumbnail photo below to enlarge):

NY Times 1991 reposit

Just three paragraphs later, it says this about the documents where this phrase originated (boldface emphasis mine):

A packet of internal correspondence and other information relating to the campaign was provided to The New York Times by the Sierra Club, …. The organization had apparently been given the materials by someone who disagreed with the campaign’s goals or approach.

In all the digging I’ve done since October 2009 into the origins of the accusation against skeptic scientists, I haven’t found a solitary instance of where the Sierra Club takes any responsibility for those documents in any fashion, as in discovering / receiving them, or forwarding them to the NY Times. You’d think they’d mention it somewhere in their current web pages as a major victory in exposing the evil intent of the fossil fuel industry, the triumph of eco-David over Goliath Coal & Oil.

Not one other person repeating the accusation ever praises the Sierra Club for blowing the lid on the skeptic climate scientists. Not. One.

This has been a Ross Gelbspan / Greenpeace USA (née Ozone Action) show ever since it got good media traction in 1996, but neither Gelbspan nor Ozone Action offer as much as a hat tip of appreciation to the Sierra Club. How odd, considering that Greenpeace’s Kalee Kreider, (alleged creator of Ozone Action who moved on to Greenpeace before Greenpeace merged with Ozone Action) emailed an alert about skeptic climate scientists / Western Fuels in October 1996 to (among other people, including two at Ozone Action) Dan Becker, who was the Sierra Club’s Global Warming Program director at that time.

Think about that for a moment, and two questions arise. How plausible is it that the Sierra Club Global Warming Program Director would be unaware of a potentially massively damaging leaked ‘packet of internal correspondence and planning documents’ being given to the NY Times on behalf of his organization? Or if he did know about it, why would he allow all the glory of a smoking gun-magnitude ‘corruption discovery’ go to a relatively unknown johnny-come-lately ozone depletion activist group (it didn’t exist in when the 1991 NY Times article came out), and to a guy who was in grave risk of succumbing to a serious credibility problem if any prominent news outlet decided to dig into that particular situation?

Once again, no tidy answers, just deepening problems.