The accusation that skeptic climate scientists are paid by the fossil fuel industry to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” has two parts: the 1991-’95 span when it got little public interest, and late 1995 to the present, when it became far more widespread. During this entire 22-year stretch of time, I’m the only one quoting that fragment coal association memo sentence who told where the public could view that phrase and the rest of the ‘leaked memo set’. Among all the promoters of global warming out there, not one ever had a web link straight to the ‘leaked memo set’.
Until last Thursday.
The first web link in the “ICE” (Information Council for the Environment) section of Desmogblog’s piece last week* (*screencapture here) is the only direct link to Greenpeace’s ICE memo scans of the I’ve ever seen in 3+ years of looking into the smear of skeptic climate scientists. *[Author’s 9/17/21 edit: Desmog subsequently altered that page to add a link to their own page about ICE before the link to Greenpeace’s scans page, thus my edit here to the Internet Archive version link of the original Desmog page, and my addition of the screencapture of that Desmog original page version.]
The overall problem here is elemental: Ordinary internet searchers would not find the ICE memo set Greenpeace unless they knew to look for them there. When I began extensively looking into Ross Gelbspan’s accusation after November 2009, those scans never came up in my searches. It took me 7 months to find the memo set after sifting through huge amounts of material quoting Gelbspan’s and Gore’s favorite accusation phrase but never showing it in its full context. The tip for me came when I was finally able to understand the significance of occasional old references to the otherwise forgotten enviro-activist group Ozone Action, and then I discovered how to see their old web pages via an internet archive search site. The following quote was the critical bit I found in Ozone Action’s March 1996 “Ties that Blind” report, seen near the middle of this page [**11/16/13 Author’s note: see info at bottom]:
According to documents obtained by Ozone Action and by Ross Gelbspan, several ICE strategies were laid out including: the repositioning of global warming as theory, not fact; …
Media strategies included:
* targeting “older, less-educated males from larger households who are not typically active information seekers” and “younger, lower-income women.” (the reason for the red highlighting here is further down)
I’d never heard of Ozone Action. But in short order I discovered that Ozone Action’s founder John Passacantando became the director of Greenpeace USA in 2000, and merged his little group into it.
Gelbspan’s associations around the time when his accusation was gaining media traction is a topic for future blog pieces here. But the “According to documents obtained by Ozone Action and by Ross Gelbspan” sentence prompts a simple question arises:
Obtained ……… from whom?
- Book author Andrew Rowell? His October 22, 1996 Green Backlash book might have had access to the memos around the same time as Gelbspan and Ozone Action. It clearly references the “reposition global warming” phrase on pg 142, but its end note #106 only says “ICE internal packet, Strategies, p. 3” and nothing about where he got it.
- Book authors Curtis Moore and Alan Miller and their August 1994 Green Gold book? Their end note #27 says, “See Matthew L. Wald, “Pro-Coal Ad Campaign Disputes Warming Idea,” New York Times, 8 July 1991; Tom Helland of Simmons Advertising (the firm employed by ICE to conduct the campaign), interview 11 August 1992” The “Helland” name is a reference to the page seen at the Greenpeace scans’ pg 13, so they must have had to see or have the memo set in order to know to interview that individual.
- Matt Wald at the NY Times, or the Sierra Club? Wald clearly states the ICE organization name in his 1991 article, noting in the 6th paragraph that the memo set was “A packet of internal correspondence and other information relating to the campaign was provided to The New York Times by the Sierra Club“.
- Al Gore? He clearly credits Gelbspan in his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” movie companion book on pg 263 for the discovery of at least one particular page of the memo set.
But on page 360 of his 1992 “Earth in the Balance” book, Gore quotes the identical words I highlighted in red above from Gelbspan and Ozone Action circa 1996. They are all in the same memo set. Compounding the problem, Gore doesn’t say the set came from any media organization or the Sierra Club. He says it came from the National Coal Association.
Gelbspan’s 1997 “The Heat is On” only says in regard to the memo set on page 242-3, “…ICE documents in author’s possession.” Nothing about how he ‘obtained’ them.
My educated guess about how the Desmogblog writer knows about the scans: Gelbspan was that site’s star blogger from 2006 to 2011; Desmogblog’s Jim Hoggan noted in his January 2008 piece‘s 4th paragraph, “Ross Gelbspan, whose defining books Boiling Point and The Heat is On were a big part of the inspiration for starting the DeSmogBlog …”; and Gelbspan himself corroborated that just 6 seconds into this November 2012 audio interview, (backup here)
I do very little for them now, but they sort of, uh, formed because they were reading the stuff I was doing about the skeptics, all the skeptics I was exposing, so they umm, asked me to sort of found it for ’em, and I did…
All paths lead to Ross Gelbspan, from as recently as just days ago, to the time when he first mentioned it in 1995. But why would Al Gore claim Gelbspan had anything to do with the discovery of any ICE memos when he had them in his Senate office in 1992? And why did it take 22 years for anyone on Al Gore’s side to link to Greenpeace’s ICE memo scans if they knew that set was the “smoking gun” evidence for a sinister industry-wide secret directive, particularly those who knew where it was this entire time?
There are no easy answers in sorting out the Gelbspan/Gore accusation, only deepening problems.
** 11/16/13 Author’s note: I originally had to place alternative links here on 9/4 to replace the suddenly blocked access to the old Ozone Action pages, and I wrote a piece about that blockage here on 9/6. Sometime in October, that blockage was lifted, for who knows what reason. As implied in my closing sentence just above, the blockage of Ozone Action archive web pages is another instance of the deepening problems to be found in the smear of skeptic climate scientists.