Platkin v Exxon Mobil Corp.

At his October 18 video news conference announcement of his same-day filing of Platkin v. ExxonMobil, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin implied the science of catastrophic climate events caused by the burning of fossil fuels was settled, and that his seemingly stand-alone bold lawsuit action to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for knowing their harm and disinforming the public for decades was timely and meaningful for New Jersey residents. And he thanked a lot of attorneys for their help in bringing this case, including one particular law firm, “our outside council Sher Edling.”

To set up the political suicide of this situation – how it is not timely at all, and how he really could have thanked just the one law firm there – I paraphrase a scene out of a famous movie:

I have to say that’s the most amazing story I’ve ever heard. What amazes me most is that he was taken in by it. It’s obvious this fellow Platkin was impressed by the Sher Edling law firm. He hears their tales of woe about climate and tries to cheer NJ residents up with this announcement. He’s young, not terribly bright. It’s not surprising he wouldn’t know what a state he puts his supporters in.

It’s amazing at the science level – experts across the range of science involving “superstorm Sandy” can explain at huge depth how its size didn’t have a thing to do with “Clima-Change™” but was instead a combination of factors including Sandy striking an area where the undersea geography had heightened its storm surge, and how its otherwise Category 1 size (if even that big) had merged with a large and coincidental inland storm area.

And it’s amazing at an anti-intellectual level, because when AG Platkin claims the defendant energy companies and the American Petroleum Institute “have known since the 1950s that their fossil fuel products are a main driver of global climate change … They knew that fossil fuels were causing global warming, melting polar ice caps and triggering sea level rise, it absolutely contradicts reports of climate scientists predicting global cooling.

I leave the science angle of the issue for objective, unbiased scientists to explain all the massive faults with the idea that “Exxon Knew” oil consumption was warming the planet.

What amazes me is AG Platkin’s technically disinformation bit about “today we begin to right the wrongs” as though this is the first such action to hold energy companies responsible for sinisterly aiming to declare ‘victory will be achieved when we reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.’ And it amazes me that he essentially committed the political suicide act of merely mentioning how he has Sher Edling as his outside council, because that’s his source for the composite ‘leaked industry memos smoking gun evidence.’ In the face of it not being possible that ‘Big Coal & Oil’ could have known with any certainty that burning fossil fuels caused either cooling or heating or canceled out both, and in the face of the cornerstone evidence in this filing and the 15 prior Sher Edling boilerplate copy lawsuits being literally worthless as evidence proving industry-led disinformation campaigns exist, if any one of these lawsuits collapse due to lack of evidence, it implodes all of the others and leaves the public, policymakers, and journalists no excuse to dismiss what skeptic climate scientists say.

Even more amazing is that in answer to a barely heard question about other similar lawsuits, AG Platkin saidHoboken, about a dozen cities and counties that have brought similar, not identical, lawsuits to us including Hoboken in about six states…” and then added that it was both timely and will deliver meaningful results.

No, essentially identical in either their basic enslavement to ye olde “reposition global warming” strategy memo phrase, as in Hoboken v Exxon, or almost literally identical in the specific paragraphs citing those memos. No, not timely, he is literally the last (so far) of the johhny-come-latelies to the Sher Edling traveling circus act. But if his lawsuit collapses, it’ll expose where the real disinformation has apparently been the whole time in the climate issue. From that potential result, least he will have gotten the “meaningful results” part right.

What’s one part of AG Platkin’s cornerstone evidence for his claim “they led a decades long disinformation campaign”?

Can’t make this up, it’s the same paragraph in the half decade-old Sept 2017 County of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp ….

…. that’s essentially identical to his own paragraph – below – for the “reposition global warming” memos. Notice the “as well as younger, lower-income women” memo phrase in San Mateo is missing in AG Platkin’s filing. As I noted in my February 8, 2018 blog post dissection of the second trio of County / City of Santa Cruz / City of Richmond lawsuits, that omission started there and continued in every Sher Edling copy ’n paste filing afterward. No reason for AG Platkin or his staff to deviate …. despite that secondary phrase being good enough for Ross Gelbspan circa 1997, and good enough for Gelbspan / Ozone Action circa 1996, and good enough for Senator Al Gore circa 1992.

AG Platkin adds to that ‘evidence,’ following the template of County of San Mateo and all the rest of the Sher Edling filings, an identical presentation of “newspaper ads evidence” which supposedly prove disinformation campaigns exist ….

…. despite the Chicken Little ad / Doomsday ad never being published anywhere and both having the unsolicited, never-used incorrect ICE label “Informed Citizens for the Environment” — seen with much better clarity within the old Ozone Action/Greenpeace scans’ downloaded PDF file, pages 49 & 50. Did the “Most Serious Problem” ad contain outright disinformation? You be the judge. Zoom in on the cropped-out text here that AG Platkin can’t or won’t show you.

What’s the other cornerstone ‘leaked memos’ evidence AG Platkin for his “they led a decades long disinformation campaign” claim?

Ye olde “victory will be achieved” memos ….. with the identical innocuous-looking “documentcloud” source for the memos that – as I covered in my dissection of Honolulu v. Sunoco – is actually an upload from Kert Davies when he still worked at Greenpeace.

That Kert Davies, as I’ve pointed out many prior times at my GelbspanFiles blog, the man whose header photo at his Climate Investigations Center (CIC) “Climate Watchdog” Twitter account is ye olde horribly degraded “victory will be achieved” photocopy scan, the same Kert Davies whose workplace prior to Greenpeace was Ozone Action, the place that was the first to provide lasting, ongoing media traction to ye olde “reposition global warming” ‘leaked memos;’ the same Kert Davies who runs the Climate Files platform through his CIC website, the same Climate Files apparently supplying the Sher Edling law firm with worthless never-published newspaper ad “evidence,” the same Climate Files cited a minimum of 13 times within AG Platkin’s lawsuit.

The assorted officials filing these lawsuits apparently have some leeway on what they add to the Sher Edling template. Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Inc. (PCFFA) v. Chevron was just 94 pages long. Delaware v. BP ballooned out to 222 pages. AG Platkin’s is 200. Credit him or somebody in his office for finally changing the prior unbroken string of repetitions, though, of the first page Introduction sentence (#1 San Mateo to #15 Anne Arundel), about a planet warmed from burnt fossil fuels. Problem is, whether it’s “since the 1950s” (which also means into the early 1960s) or “nearly half a century” (2022 – 48 = 1974), these lawsuits fatally plow into a brick wall since the fossil fuel industry could not have known their products cause warming ……. because – again – global cooling Cooling.  Cooling!

Meanwhile, the basic Sher Edling boilerplate template is still nevertheless in place. There are the two instances above involving ye olde worthless leaked industry memos. Then there is:

✓ AG Platkin’s reference to the “Black Report” to claim Exxon knew back in 1977-’78 how the polar region temperatures were going to rise. Identical to what’s in the two year-old Maui v. Sunoco filing. Down to the same citation source of Kert Davies’ Climate Files site. Keep scrolling up through both lawsuits starting at that page, the prior several paragraphs are almost word-for-word identical.

✓ AG Platkin’s reference to a particular narrative about ‘Big Oil’ bankrolling skeptic climate scientists. Almost identical to what’s in the Charleston v. Brabham Oil filing — he adds a couple of words and adds Dr Willie Soon’s name specifically, possibly digging a libel hole for himself. Dr Soon flatly denies the accusation, and also shows how the Smithsonian citation falls apart.

✓ AG Platkin’s reference to the “Richard Lawson” memo, which begs for trouble with its citation of Naomi Oreskes. Same as in the nearly 4 year old PCFFA v. Chevron filing — plus/minus a couple of words.

✓ AG Platkin’s reference to President Lyndon Johnson that follows the Sher Edling template which started with the two year-old Delaware v. BP filing. He added two words there and a hyphen.

No amount of fiddling with the wording will save AG Platkin from his self-inflicted political suicide, though. After listening to AG Platkin thanking so many attorneys with Sher Edling at the very end, one is left to wonder if all those others only contributed the little word tweaks, while the big thanks still goes to Sher Edling for the core template.

Why are all these repetitions massively problematic for AG Platkin? They are a pretty good indicator that his office did no basic due diligence to see if the Sher Edling filing template was above reproach.

  • Both the “reposition global warming” memos and the “victory will be achieved” memos were never implemented, as I detailed here and here. No matter what action is proposed to any entity anywhere, the mere existence of the proposal is not proof that the recommended action ever took place. If your accusation contends shill scientists knowingly spread disinformation for their fossil fuel industry benefactors, you’d better actual evidence proving they lied, not some unused memo proposals that practically nobody inside the industry saw.
  • Exxon could not have known that polar region temperatures were going to rise as far back as ’77-’78 … because global cooling. Cooling, cooling, cooling!
  • The “Richard Lawson” memo is sourced to Naomi Oreskes’ obscure 2010 book chapter contribution, which among other huge faults, claims ye olde “reposition global warming” memos and other documents are archived in a place that the organization archivist flat contradicts, and the documents themselves are apparently sourced from a person with direct ties to Al Gore. Oreskes, a history professor, has huge problems keeping her stories straight of how she became involved in the “crooked skeptics” part of the climate issue.
  • Prior to the Delaware v. BP filing, the Sher Edling boilerplate filings featured an additional paragraph about President Johnson, with a massively suspect three-dot ellipsis in the quote out of his speech. Those three dots are traceable directly to Naomi Oreskes’ fundamentally disinforming 2007 slide presentation, as I detailed in the latter 2/3rds of my dissection of Rhode Island v. Chevron. Add the three missing words to where the ellipsis is, and it torpedoes the entire notion that President Johnson and the fossil fuel industry knew anything about global warming as the sole result of burning fossil fuels.
  • Then there’s the “Climate Files”/Kert Davies sources. With all of the above fatal faults, it shifts the focus away from AG Platkin’s claims that the fossil fuel industry created disinformation campaigns to protect their income, and shifts the focus instead onto to the plausibly serious situation that a core clique of enviro-activists, including Davies, apparently created disinformation campaigns designed to vilify the fossil fuel industry and undercut the credibility of skeptic climate scientists, funded through dark money channels, in order to protect the multi-billion dollar global warming industry’s income, and the peoplewhose . reputations . depend . entirely on ye olde worthless leaked industry memos being the smoking gun evidence they claim them to be .

Point being, AG Platkin’s filing was not timely in the least, and if he truly wanted to bring meaningful results to the citizens of New Jersey, he and his staff would have questioned the core accusation material in the Sher Edling template and exposed this lawsuit effort for what it apparently is, instead of exacerbating the state of disinformation surrounding all these meritless “Exxon Knew” lawsuits.

Well, to repeat at the top ..…. but it is not us who question the ‘certainty’ of man-caused global warming or the ‘certainty’ that industry-led disinformation campaigns employing ‘liars-for-hire scientists’ who are being obtuse here, it’s guys like AG Platkin who are either oblivious to the fatal faults within both angles of that side of the issue, or who simply don’t do their job to see if there are crippling faults within compelling ‘shiny object lawsuit proposals‘ shown to them.