Here we go again. When I said in my December 14, 2018 blog post (and its Part 2), that enviro-activists only have a one-trick pony to use in their character assassination efforts against skeptic climate scientists, that’s no exaggeration. Their lack of diversity isn’t restricted to only minor league ‘reporters’ lately, it’s the only thing the most famous accusers have in their arsenal as evidence of a ‘skeptics / fossil fuel industry executives disinformation’ conspiracy. Look no farther for that than the 1/29/19 “
Brief Of Amici Curiae, Robert Brule, Center For Climate Integrity, Justin Farrell, Benjamin Franta, Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, and Geoffrey Supran“* for the San Mateo / Imperial Beach / Marin / Santa Cruz v Chevron, California global warming lawsuits. Instead of presenting a more convincing argument for repeated use of the same old ‘leaked memo evidence,’ this little amici curiae group only amplifies how much of a problem it creates.
*[Author’s 3/18/22 update: for some inexplicable reason, that Columbia U. link first defaulted to the wrong amici curiae brief and then stopped working altogether. It didn’t when I first posted it, and the Internet Archive page for the link goes to the correct brief. Columbia U. has reassigned this brief to a new url addresses enough times now that I’ll just post the most current available link rather than pile on to a list of incorrect links.]
Not helping the situation at all is how this amici curiae filing is just one of eight other filings all submitted toward those California court cases all in the same day. I leave that strange situation for others to detail. Not helping this particular “Brule [sic] et al.” situation is how the preparers of the filling misspelled Robert Brulle’s name twice, and labeled one of the municipality plaintiffs as the “County of Imperial Beach” when it is the “City of..”
There’s a far bigger problem. This first involves quite a bit of setup which I illustrate mostly with links to screencapture images. Watch what happens when brief history angles of these individuals are examined, relative to how they support the notion that industry money buys lies from skeptic climate scientists:
- Dr Justin Farrell / Dr Robert Brulle: Farrell is essentially another name I could add into a category I call “Skeptic-Trashing Environmental Sociologists” which already includes Brulle. Farrell’s 2016 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article “Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change” follows the pattern of citing other skeptic-trashing sociologists for the notion that a collusion conspiracy exists between the fossil fuel industry and skeptic climate scientists, when such sociologists aren’t directly citing Naomi Oreskes, or skeptic-trashing advocacy group reports, who themselves (or their citations) ultimately cite Ross Gelbspan. Take a deeper look into Farrell’s citation of the Boykoff brothers 2004 paper and who do they cite for the accusation? Ross Gelbspan. They even thank him for his input. Take a deeper look into Farrell’s citation of Anthony Leiserowitz. When such things aren’t dubious citations, they appear to have dubious associations. Whose name was brought up in Oreskes’ 2012 La Jolla, California workshop on brainstorming-to-take-down-Big-Oil-using-Tobacco-Industry-litigation-tactics? Anthony Leiserowitz. Who is Anthony Leiserowitz Facebook Friends with? Ross Gelbspan. Essentially every one of these people is plagued by the problem of having three degrees of separation or less from Ross Gelbspan.
Quite possibly, this overall affliction is confirmation bias; these skeptic-trashing environmental sociologists, who are not climate science experts, proceed on the premise that man-caused global warming is settled science, so they seek confirmation for the notion that the public is misled by corporate-orchestrated misinformation. They simply never check to see if Gelbspan’s accusation is based on worthless evidence, or if he has other fatal credibility problems, or if the basic premise he offers about skeptic climate scientists getting too much ‘fair media balance’ is totally without merit.
- Dr Stephan Lewandowsky: Same as above. I additionally covered this in a 2012 WUWT guest post. However, he really hasn’t found any new evidence for his accusation. In the March, 2018, “The Consensus Handbook, Why the scientific consensus on climate change is important” he co-authored, we see the statement on PDF file page 8, and its corresponding end note on PDF file pg 24 as follows:
In 1991, the Western Fuels Association spent over half a million dollars on a public relations campaign to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact)“15 p.139
15 Oreskes, N. (2010) My facts are better than your facts,: spreading good news about global warming, in: M. S. Morgan and P. Howlett (eds.) How do facts travel? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 135–166
But Oreskes is not the original source for those particular, as it turns out, non-WFA memos. Oreskes cites Gelbspan’s 2004 “Boiling Point” book for them and he cites his 1997 book, saying the memos are “in his possession,” while never disclosing where he “obtained” them. Years before Gelbspan ever mentioned them, the New York Times said the memos came from the Sierra Club, which never said how they got them.
It’s never a good sign when people take on the appearance of hiding a dubious source with this kind of cascading citation obfuscation.
- The Center for Climate Integrity (CCI): The Pay Up Climate Polluters page has a handy blurb saying CCI, a project of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, directs Pay Up Climate Polluters. What evidence does Pay Up have to prove skeptics are paid oil money to lie? Those worthless old non-“Information Council for the Environment” memos. Uncovered by Kert Davies’ Climate Investigations site, no less. That Kert Davies. However, he’s not the original source for those. Remember the “Davies” name, it will come up again shortly.
- Dr Benjamin Franta: His main claim to fame is his association with the “Divest Harvard from fossil fuels petition efforts” and the related lawsuit against that college by the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition. What was that lawsuit’s evidence for the ‘crooked skeptics’ accusation? Two items: A 2013 Boston Globe article which itself said the evidence was “documents obtained … by Greenpeace,” (which would be more accurately termed “Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action,” i.e. Kert Davies’ ExxonSecrets section at that time), and an alert at Oil Change International by Steve Kretzmann about a money-in-politics situation. While that piece provides no hint of evidence, a 2006 piece at that site did at least contain an influential name on that overall topic. Who? Ross Gelbspan. Remember the “Kretzmann” name, though, it will come up again shortly.
Franta offered a related gem more recently, in a 2018 video symposium where the end of his short presentation quoted the Center for International Environmental Law’s (CEIL)’s Carroll Muffett, who compared increasing oil company litigation pressure to the perseverance behind the old tobacco industry litigation. Where has that comparison appeared before? At a 2010 NYT article where a law professor (who had already written about the “reposition global warming memo as evidence in one then-current global warming case) was responding to the situation of the other then-current Matt Pawa-led Kivalina v Exxon case – which was also enslaved to the “reposition global warming” memos ‘evidence.’ (back then, his email address was “firstname.lastname@example.org” — remember that address, it’ll come up again shortly).
Who was also a top administrator at CIEL many years ago wishing to sue oil companies? David Hunter, a board member of Ozone Action, the place that gave the “reposition global warming” / “older, less-educated males” / “younger, lower-income women” strategy / targeting memo phrases their first media traction with …. guess who? Incidentally, the lawyer leading the last surviving Hagens Berman global warming lawsuit, Matt Pawa, is also associated with CEIL.
But after introducing himself at the beginning of his presentation, Franta – mild profanity alert – channeled an anti-Exxon goal Muffett potentially endorsed in a leaked 2016 “let’s-nail-Exxon” email …………which also featured Kert Davies, Steve Kretzmann, Matt Pawa, and Ozone Action founder John Passacantando. Who are these five, along with another key name, Facebook Friends with? Ross Gelbspan. (Passacantando, though, before his entire Facebook account vanished)
[10/14/20 Author’s addition: Franta inadvertently reinforced how there’s really only one source for the ‘crooked skeptic scientists’ accusation in the following response to a tweet about scarce reporting on the accusation beyond Naomi Oreskes’ “early work.”]
- Dr. Geoffrey Supran: His main claim to fame is his association with Naomi Oreskes, which this amici curiae not only notes, but also includes their study as evidence of Exxon’s alleged ‘knowledge’ about the harm of man-caused global warming (others dispute the Oreskes-Supran study, but that’s another story). Supran was earlier involved in efforts to persuade the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to divest itself of fossil fuels, similar to Benjamin Franta’s efforts at Harvard (Oreskes not only is among the Harvard faculty petition signers, she Tweeted praise of Franta’s early work on it) There’s even a joint Franta-Supran 2015 interview article describing their activism.
But who was an earlier likely influence of Supran regarding the notion of the fossil fuel industry paying skeptics to push disinformation? Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. The place that trains people to dramatically portray the old non-ICE memo phrase “reposition global warming” as a sinister industry directive. This influence might explain why FossilFreeMIT chose to state in their 2014 seven page treatise on the topic that:
In 1991, the National Coal Association (as noted above, at least 13 of the fossil fuel companies from which Fossil Free MIT is asking MIT to divest were members of this group), together with the Western Fuels Association and Edison Electric Institute established a group called the Information Council on [sic] the Environment (ICE). Its strategy, spelled out in a document produced by the Western Fuels Association and designed by a public relations firm, was to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact)”
Who was FossilFreeMIT’s sources for that assertion? UK Guardian journalist George Monbiot, who cites Naomi Oreskes …… and Naomi Oreskes …… who never actually made those memos available online, but instead showed a single page while quoting other phrases out of the memos, citing Ross Gelbspan’s 2004 “Boiling Point” pages 51-52 regurgitation of the memos, and claiming the memos were archived in a place where they actually were not. Worse, FossilFreeMIT attempted to bolster this evidence with quotes out of the actual ICE campaign newspaper PR ads, citing James Hoggan’s book. Hoggan cites Oreskes in his book for the “reposition global warming” memos, while Oreskes stated in her 2012 La Jolla workshop that she personally retained copies of that ICE campaign material – possibly even the ads former Senate staffer Anthony Socci told her about. Socci, who once appeared side-by-side with Ross Gelbspan at a media panel discussion.
- Naomi Oreskes: She basically parlayed her 2004 Science paper on ‘global warming consensus’ (which Al Gore used as a segue to lead into his moments-later recitation of the “reposition global warming” memo) into a second career of persecuting skeptic climate scientists. But as I’ve listed in my April 20, 2017 blog post and more recently in the latter section of my July 13, 2018 blog post, she has myriad huge credibility problems, and her problematic ties regarding the Western Fuels / ICE documents lead to both a person one step separated from Al Gore, and to Ross Gelbspan.
See the problem? No matter where you go in the ‘Big Coal & Oil conspiring with crooked skeptics’ accusation, there you are: separated from Ross Gelbspan by three degrees or less.
Now, after all that setup, the main attraction:
Regarding this particular Brule [sic]../ Oreskes et al. amici curiae filing, we have entertaining blunders offered in PDF file pages 39 through 42. Within that span, there is nothing more than a rehash of what I now humorously composite as “Victory will be achieved when we reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.”
First, even though they provide an online link to a form letter by Dr Patrick Michaels via footnote #52 with its “Information Council for the Environment” logo, they still incorrectly identify the PR campaign as the “Information Council on the Environment.” Twice.
More sloppy than that, however, is their assertion implied by footnote #52 ….
ICE’s primary strategy was to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact),”52
.… that Pat Michaels’ letter contained the ICE strategy goal. Clearly, it does not.
Some unfortunate legal aide at Keller Rohrback will likely be fired for these embarrassing content/name typos. But nobody will be able to blame an intern for Oreskes et al. citing the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2015 copies non-WFA / ICE memos, which is the same action seen in the main California global warming lawsuits. As I detailed in my dissection of UCS’ ‘exposé’ of these memos, that’s another example of the ‘citation cascade problem — UCS cites the old “Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action” memo scans. In this amici curiae filing, they could have skipped the middleman and instead provided a link to Oreskes’ own personal 5-years-earlier copies, or directly to the “Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action” 2007 scans, or to whatever the New York Times or the Sierra Club might still have.
Meanwhile, that’s not the only major problem in this Oreskes et al. amici curiae filing. They feel compelled to bring up the equally worthless API “Victory will be achieved” memo (PDF file pgs 41-42), and they’re compelled to cite Kert Davies’ ClimateFiles website for the memo scans, not the archive version of the original National Environmental Trust copies, or still-current much-easier-to-read PCFFA website’s converted text, which is ironically problematic to the Sher Edling PCFFA v Chevron lawsuit.
They even make the mistake of pointing to Amy Westervelt – the minor league ‘reporter’ I referred to in my first paragraph here – as some kind of authority source, when one of Westervelt’s podcasts inexplicably undermines the UCS source of the “reposition global warming” memos, and when all of her podcasts never tell her audience what Kert Davies work history is. Westervelt also trumpets the API “Victory will be achieved” memo, but it is worthless as evidence of a sinister industry directive because it is 1) little more than a collection of truisms indicating the public successfully learning more about pre-existing science assessments from skeptics which Al Gore and his sycophants want the public to ignore; and 2) much like the unused, unsolicited proposal strategy / targeting memos part of the ICE PR campaign, the API memo was also unused and
unsolicited* or approved. [*Author’s 5/13/21 note: this is corrected/clarified here]
Examine all of these recurring accusations deeply enough from enviro-activists about misinformation, obfuscation, and suspect associations, and it looks less like sinister intent orchestrated by industry executives and increasingly more like what enviro-activists may have been doing the entire time right up to the present time.
Quoting the definition: “An amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight …” The question to ask is whether these particular people, and others associated with them, might actually be directly and knowingly supplying the plaintiffs with worthless accusation material.
When the evidence for the accusation always filters back to Ross Gelbspan, Ozone Action, and Al Gore’s 1991-’92 Senate office, the defendants in these lawsuits, along with congressional and/or other investigators, might want to ask why Gelbspan, the old crew (plural) from Ozone Action, and Gore are never named as the source in these latest lawsuits.