The Be-All / End-All “reposition global warming as theory” Memos: When It’s All You Got, You. Have. Nothing.

How’s it going to work out when you have to defend your accusation that this ‘leaked memo’ directive is smoking gun proof that the fossil fuel industry ran disinformation campaigns to deceive the public about what the industry knew about the certainty of man-caused global warming? Just askin’ … for potentially 218+ friends ….

No exaggeration there about that worthless-as-evidence memo directive phrase (it was never implemented anywhere) being the only thing enviro-activists have in their arsenal to support their accusation about the fossil fuel industry bankrolling disinformation campaigns, and I’m not kidding about the sheer repetition of it recently which proves just how devoid that mob is of anything else to support their accusation, and how desperate they’re becoming in using it to keep the accusation alive.

While the New Jersey Attorney General did not bring up that phrase in his video or written announcement about filing his 10/18/22 Matthew Platkin v Exxon Mobil lawsuit, the lawsuit itself most certainly did, as I showed in my Oct 30th dissection of it. And so did the left-leaning Triple Pundit website on October 25, where they felt compelled to mention the “reposition global warming” memos — not in conjunction with AG Platkin’s filing, but instead with regard to the other New Jersey “Exxon Knew”-style lawsuit, Hoboken v Exxonlike so:

The city also pointed to the industry’s orchestrated campaign to deceive the public on what it already knew to be true about climate change from its own scientific studies: “Defendants spent millions of dollars on advertisements that cast doubt on climate science; funded scientifically unsound research to do the same; and created expansive networks of front groups toreposition global warming as theory, not fact’.”

While these tactics no doubt got us where we are today, industry representatives naturally argue that holding the oil companies to task in a court of law is frivolous and a waste of time and money.

Funny thing about that bit out of the Hoboken filing: The Defendants all had literally nothing to do with that, not even tangentially. Since nobody of major industry administrative influence ever saw the directive strategy to “reposition global warming,” and considering how the unsolicited proposal with its unwanted “Informed Citizens” and other alternate PR campaign name suggestions ended up in the trash, there is no possible way that ‘those tactics no doubt got us where we are today,’ and thus the whole idea that the industry set out to deceive anybody collapses. Worse, the public relations that the strategy memo is falsely attributed to was not actually “the industry,” the PR campaign was no more than the brainchild of a non-profit co-op that simply wanted the public to know there was a side of the issue that the mainstream media did not report about at any depth. Seems Triple Pundit wants to “report on the business of doing better” but has no investigative journalism curiosity to see whether the accusation they report about actually has any merit, or curiosity of what happens if not one, but two, New Jersey lawsuits are exposed as relying on worthless ‘leaked memos’ evidence.

Then there was the September 1 paper that regurgitated ye olde “reposition global warming” memos, which I dissected in my 9/26 blog post. I didn’t catch it until just in the recent couple of weeks, the author saw fit to publicize her paper on Twitter with a direct quote of that memo phrase …..

 … complete with the – again – unsolicited name for the PR campaign name that she never mentioned one single time within her paper. Obvious question there is how could such an alleged ‘careful’ researcher make that big of a blunder which undermines a core accusation within her supposedly “peer reviewed” science journal paper?

These instances never bolster the credibility of the main accusation that there’s been a never-ending conspiracy by the fossil fuel industry to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact;” each new clumsy regurgitation only draws more attention to how inconsistent each tale is about the never-used memos. Witness Vice article contributor Geoff Dembicki, in his October 14 effort to claim the “Koch Industries, Fake Scientists, and Rush Limbaugh Invented Climate Denial” through a regurgitation of a passage out of his Sept 20th-published “The Petroleum Papers” book:

The goal of the utility-led campaign, which was given the name “Informed Citizens for the Environment,” was to shift what people thought and believed about climate change. “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact),” read a strategy document. “Target print and radio media for maximum effectiveness.” The optics of coal interests leading an advertising effort to confuse the public weren’t great, so they decided to “use a spokesman from the scientific community” to deliver their message.

Throughout the spring of 1991, Michaels was their man[meeting] with editors and writers at media outlets …

In just that one passage alone, I count seven fatal errors. Acutely ironic, since book author Dembicki labels himself an “investigative climate reporter.” For example, the actual “Information Council FOR the Environment” PR campaign that a very limited portion of the public saw – three small cities – lasted for just 18 days, 2½ weeks, May 12th through May 29th, thus Dr Patrick Michaels could not have been the public face of the campaign from March through May. And the ICE campaign administrators were not the least bit shy about the optics of who was leading the campaign.

What’s another problem plaguing “investigative climate reporter” Dembicki? It appears he did no investigation of any kind on the above claims, he sources it all to a Climate Files page – or as I’ve further detailed it many times here at GelbspanFiles, that page at Climate Files, operated by that Kert Davies, who’s a former top worker of the old forgotten Ozone Action group, the place that magically ‘obtained’ ye olde “reposition global warming” leaked memos without ever saying who they got them from.

Rather than clearcut another forest for all the paper going into his books, Dembicki could have printed 1-page pamphlets on used paper saying, “for descriptions and evidence of industry-orchestrated disinformation campaigns repositioning global warming as theory, see Kert Davies and his former boss, and their stuff circa 1996-2000 at Ozone Action.”

Same thing applies to the hapless “peer reviewed” paper researcher Emily Williams concerning her source for that memo set.

Meanwhile, an example of how one instance of disinformation can be blown up into a larger bit of disinformation is this Tweet from a person who might fall under the category of ‘useful idiot’:

See how that works? Like I showed in my blog post over nine years ago, it doesn’t matter if you get basic details wrong, so long as you just get the “reposition global warming” memos phrase out there.

Think I’ve got nothing more recent than mid October on regurgitations of ye really olde “reposition global warming” strategy memo phrase? Think again.

From November 8th, 8 days ago as of this day of my blog post publication, we have the following from Al Jazeera English “investigative reporter” Hilary Beaumont’s “How US climate lawsuits could hold Big Oil accountable” article:

In 1991, the Information Council for the Environment, whose members included oil companies, launched a national climate denial campaign attempting to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact)“.

“Disinformation works best when we anchor it in just a teeny sliver of truth, and then you just warp it, and that’s what they did – raise uncertainty, raise doubt where there was none,” Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, told Al Jazeera.

To her credit, Ms Beaumont actually got the official spelled-out ICE acronym correct, but I still count 4 errors in her sentence – the ICE campaign members – meaning associates in the Western Fuels Association’s co-op of coal mines / transporters / power plants – included no oil companies, the ICE campaign was only in three small cities, nobody in the campaign was directed to reposition anything …. and her clickable link for the “national climate denial campaign” words ineptly goes to another Al Jazeera containing not a solitary word remotely mentioning national climate denial campaigns. Maybe she meant to link straight to Kert Davies’ Climate Files page.

Interesting to see how there’s a sudden influx of inept ‘investigative reporting / researching’ (*ahem* really inept researching – no joke!) going on in the last three months.

An educated guess* about what compelled Ms Beaumont to mention the memo set is her quote from the Center for Climate Integrity’s Richard Wiles. He’s that Richard Wiles, who’s also a board member of the Climate Communications & Law (CCL) organization, where guess who gets top billing as a board member? Kert Davies. Notice the “Environmental Working Group” name in that screencapture — Wiles & Davies go way back at that place. Who is the Center for Climate Integrity associated with? They direct the Pay Up Climate Polluters group. What does Pay Up Climate Polluters say is one of the smoking guns evidence of industry-led disinformation campaigns? Ye olde “reposition global warming” set … “originally uncovered” by Kert Davies’ Climate Investigations Center, no less, complete with the never-used name for the ICE campaign, and a mention of oil companies.

Funny thing about Wiles / Davies and the Climate Communications & Law, they are not exactly open and transparent on what they do. Davies and his former boss aren’t either when it comes to how their efforts are funded. Ironic how they and the people they possibly enable demand transparency and all kinds of hidden documents from the fossil fuel industry ‘relating to payments to shadow groups to spread disinformation.’

Two points to wrap this up: First, when the very best thing you have to prove an entire industry ran outright disinformation campaigns is a literally unused, tossed-in-the-trash memo set sole-sourced from a tiny group of people whose sole goal in life is to kill that industry, then you have a problem if ever you have to actually defend this accusation under oath. Second, elections matter …. especially when the side who has the power to investigate where disinformation exists and who promulgates the disinformation changes.
 *[10/17/23 Author’s addition: I wasn’t wrong in my educated guess. Among the trove – predominantly dated 2019 – of FOIA-released documents to the Government Accountability & Oversight group earlier this year concerning efforts of the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) to get Hawaii into the “Exxon Knew”-style lawsuits game, there were two pages dated October 2022. One was an inquiry to U of Hawaii Professor of Law Denise Antolini by “journalist” Hilary Beaumont, and the other was Antolini’s reply to Beaumont combined with the inquiry. Many of the other 2019-dated email pages in that trove involved Richard Wiles coaching Antolini on what to write in a pro-litigation Op-Ed for the Hawaii Star-Advertiser newspaper. As I’ve said before, that CCI, enslaved to ye olde “reposition global warming memos” housed within their “ICE PR campaign” memos collection. Meanwhile, among the other 2019-dated emails, who does Antolini feel compelled to forward an email message to about Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz chairing a Democrat Special Committee on the ‘climate crisis’? No less than Vic Sher himself, the man whose law firm was handling the two Hawaii “Exxon Knew” lawsuits and their enslavement to the worthless “reposition global warming memos.” “Reporter” Beaumont could just have well skipped middleman Antolini and gone instead straight to Vic Sher to get a line to regurgitate about the fossil fuel industry repositioning global warming. Not that he apparently knows anything actually definitive about the whole ‘ICE disinformation campaign,’ of course. ]