RICO-teering: How climate activists ‘knew’ they were going to pin the blame on Exxon

Picture this.

You are a scientist. You wake up one morning and go:

“Why don’t I write a letter to the US Attorney General asking her to throw fossil fuel companies in jail under the RICO act?

It would be my civic deed for the day”.

Sounds plausible?

No it doesn’t. Climate scientists have a penchant for signing activist letters. But letters pushing legal advice to an Attorney General recommending prosecution of opponents?

So where do these strange ideas come from?

Step forward ‘Climate Accountability Institute’

The Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) is a small front attempting to marry ‘climate concerns’ to environmentalism and tobacco prohibitionist tactics. But ‘small’ is a relative term in the climate activist world.

In 2012 the CAI held a ‘workshop’ in La Jolla California. It was ‘conceived’ by Naomi Oreskes and others, and called ‘Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control.’ Stanton Glantz, a prominent tobacco control activist scientist was present as were a clutch of lawyers, climate scientists, communication professionals, PR agency heads, bloggers and journalists.

They released a report (pdf):

CAI report

The workshop was an ‘exploratory, open-ended dialogue’ on the use of  ‘lessons from tobacco-related education, laws, and litigation to address climate change.’

The headline conclusion was essentially conspiracy theory. Here it is, verbatim (emphasis mine):

A key breakthrough in the public and legal case for tobacco control came when internal documents came to light showing the tobacco industry had knowingly misled the public. Similar documents may well exist in the vaults of the fossil fuel industry and their trade associations and front groups…

Why do these mythical documents needed to be ‘unearthed’?

While we currently lack a compelling public narrative about climate change in the United States, we may be close to coalescing around one. Furthermore, climate change may loom larger today in the public mind than tobacco did when public health advocates began winning policy victories.

The reader should take a moment to grasp the momentous logic: We know legally ‘incriminating documents’ (their choice of words) ‘may’ exist, because tobacco activists had a breakthrough with such documents. They need to be found in order to make climate change a ‘looming threat’ in the public mind. 

Try thinking of a more reverse-engineered form of activism.

The first chapter in the report is ‘Lessons from Tobacco Control’. It is mainly one section called ‘The Importance of Documents in Tobacco Litigation’

importance tobacco

We learn next to nothing about these supposed ‘documents’ from the report. After all, they haven’t been released or even found.

But ‘the documents’ were very valuable:

says ‘one of the most important lessons to emerge from the history of tobacco litigation’ was the ‘value of bringing internal industry documents to light’.

There was little doubt about their existence:

… many participants suggested that incriminating documents may exist that demonstrate collusion among the major fossil fuel companies …

Since they were so sure they exist, careful plotting was needed on companies whose vaults to raid

He [Glantz] stressed the need to think carefully about which companies and which trade groups might have documents that could be especially useful.

Stanton Glantz was a vocal workshop participant:exciting

Glantz was so excited he proposed using the tobacco archives platform at the University of California San Francisco for climate documents (which were yet to be found)

Because the Legacy Collection’s software and infrastructure is already in place, Glantz suggested it could be a possible home for a parallel collection of documents from the fossil fuel industry pertaining to climate change.

In what mode were the documents to be used?


Most importantly, the release of these documents meant that charges of conspiracy or racketeering could become a crucial component of tobacco litigation

Having firmly established that documents convenient to their strategy existed, the delegates moved on to discussing how to obtain them


The answer was once again clear: ‘lawsuits’. It was not just lawsuits, it was ‘Congressional hearings’, ‘sympathetic state attorney generals’ and ‘false advertising claims’.

State attorneys general can also subpoena documents, raising the possibility that a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents to light

Oreskes had a bunch of advertisements with her:

Oreskes noted that she has some of the public relations memos from the group and asked whether a false advertising claim could be brought in such a case.

Even libel suits were deemed useful:

Roberta Walburn noted that libel suits can also serve to obtain documents that might shed light on industry tactics.

Once the documents were in the bag, a story needed to be spun. :

In lawsuits targeting carbon producers, lawyers at the workshop agreed, plaintiffs need

to make evidence of a conspiracy a prominent part of their case.

Now you know where the line on how ‘fossil fuel companies ‘knew’ they were doing wrong but yet did it’ comes from. The cries of ‘it’s a conspiracy!’ are planned and pre-meditated, on lawyers’ advice.

This is where RICO came in:

Richard Ayres, an experienced environmental attorney, suggested that the RICO Act, which had been used effectively against the tobacco industry, could similarly be used to bring a lawsuit against carbon producers.

Richard Ayres is no slouch. A prominent environmental lawyer, he is co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Ayres knew starting lawsuits against productive companies wouldn’t look good. They needed to be spun:

It has to be something positive

How? By dressing it up as injury ‘compensation’

Even if your ultimate goal might be to shut down a company, you still might be wise to start out by asking for compensation for injured parties.”

The suggestions appeared to grow outlandish at every turn. Richard Heede, one of CAI’s members, had come up with a system for blaming individual companies:

Heede is working to derive the proportion of the planet’s atmospheric carbon load that is traceable to the fossil fuels produced and marketed by each of these companies

Heede’s bizarre formulas, we learn, were received ‘positively’ by ‘most of the workshop’s participants’. One UCS participant felt that ‘it could potentially be useful as part of a coordinated campaign to identify key climate “wrongdoers.” Another felt it was useful in blaming faceless corporate entities instead of countries thereby bypassing provoking patriotic impulses in international negotiations.

Heede’s work was funded by Greenpeace. Of note, Greenpeace counsel Jasper Teulings was present at the meeting.

An inspired Oreskes then appears to have proposed blaming sea level rise on corporations:

Picking up on this notion, Naomi Oreskes suggested that some portion of sea level rise could be attributed to the emissions caused by a single carbon-producing company

The oil company Exxon made its appearance in her example:

She suggested, “You might be able to say, ‘Here’s Exxon’s contribution to what’s happening to Key West or Venice.’”

This was a strategy Glantz liked:

…Stanton Glantz expressed some enthusiasm about such a strategy, based on his experience with tobacco litigation. As he put it, “I would be surprised if the industry chose to attack the calculation that one foot of flooding in Key West could be attributed to ExxonMobil.

The conspiratorial tide did not recede. Former computer scientist John Mashey claimed collusion between ‘climate change deniers’ and fossil fuel companies:

[Mashey] presented a brief overview of some of his research, which traces funding, personnel, and messaging connections between roughly 600 individuals …

The penultimate section in the report is on how delegates planned to win ‘public opinion’. Even with RICO, some felt it was ‘not easy’ (‘RICO is not easy. It is certainly not a sure win’ – Ayres) and others were wary of drawing the attention of “hostile legislators who might seek to undermine them”.

With public opinion, the delegates were clearly divided. PR mavens, lawyers and activists wanted to cry fraud, paint up villains and create outrage:

To mobilize, people often need to be outraged.

Daniel Yankelovich a ‘public opinion researcher’ involved in ‘citizen education’ appears to have balked at the ‘sue, sue, sue’ chanting. Court cases are useful only after the public had been won over, he said.


It is not clear he grasped the activists and lawyers aimed for the same with a spectacular legal victory or headlines generated by court cases and bypass the whole issue of ‘citizen education’ .

The workshop ended and there was ‘agreement’. ‘Documents’ needed to be obtained. Legal action was needed both for ‘wresting potentially useful internal documents’ and ‘maintaining pressure on the industry’.

A consensus had emerged

… an emerging consensus on a strategy that incorporates legal action with a narrative that creates public outrage.

The participants, we learn

…made commitments to try to coordinate future efforts, continue discussing strategies for gaining access to internal documents from the fossil fuel industry and its affiliated climate denial network…


Photo (c) Brenda Ekwurzel, from the report


Why is the report important? Because climate activists have done everything the delegates said they wanted done, in the report.

Everyone from climate skeptics like Roy Spencer, columnists like Holman Jenkins Jr and even a consensusist like William Connolley has been left scratching their head. However, from RICO to ‘Exxon knew’ — the twin defibrillator paddles in use to reanimate a moribund climate Frankenstein — the present actions of climate activists have been none but the pre-meditated ones presented in the report.

These include the latest letter from US Senators to Exxon, the conspiratorial ‘Exxon Knew’ campaign with the portrayal of old Exxon reports by InsideClimateNews as ‘internal documents’, the RICO letter from scientists and much more. Particularly, with the pathetic ‘journalism’ of InsideClimateNews it is almost as if climate activists have willed these ‘documents’ into existence – just as they were advised.

The CAI are free to plot the downfall of their opponents. But it is somewhat of a surprise to see the entirety of their ideas to be picked up and translated into action by the intellectually bankrupt climate activist movement.



  1. Pingback: RICO-teering: How climate activists ‘knew’ they were going to pin the blame on Exxon | JunkScience.com
  2. Russell Cook (@questionAGW)

    There’s always more. In just the quickest of glances through this piece, I spot name connections to the core promulgators of the notion that skeptic climate scientists are ‘paid to lie’ Just as I did at my 10/1 AmericanThinker piece ( http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/10/those_scientists_who_want_to_use_rico_to_prosecute_agw_deniers_have_a_big_problem.html ) on the “RICO 20” and how their ‘evidence of corrupt skeptics’ points to a single source, I spot the same thing here. Allow me to point out this select few:

    In the very first link to the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI), their page section of “Board of Advisors” gives us good ol’ Naomi, who I covered here, “Naomi Oreskes’ Problems, pt 1” http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=2009 ; Matt Pawa, who I covered here, “Ross Gelbspan and Global Warming Nuisance Lawsuits” http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=2512 ; and Michael Mann, who I covered here, “Why is Ross Gelbspan’s Name Found in ClimateGate Emails?” http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=671

    Stanton Glanz? “Why are non-tobacco documents in The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library?” http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=1947

    And in that photo at the bottom – I have five blog posts on James Hoggan: http://gelbspanfiles.com/?tag=james-hoggan . John Mashey? In my second paragraph here http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=2039 , I note how Mashey stated that it was Oreskes who introduced him to Hoggan’s Desmogblog.

    Always keep in mind that the ‘industry corrupted skeptics’ accusation is not an omnipresent one, it traces right back to Ross Gelbspan and a clique of enviro-activists in 1995-’96 who where the first to get real media traction for an accusation that appears to have part of its roots in Al Gore’s Senate office circa 1991-’92.

  3. Barry Woods

    Do we know/have Mashey’s list of 600 individuals. . Await the knock on the door. ..

  4. Dodgy Geezer

    I can recall a well-known leader of Germany who started a World War, but who helpfully wrote his entire justification and strategy down first, so that people could be forewarned.

    It didn’t seem to help. People kept thinking that he would not be a problem and that they could dissuade him, right up to the point where he was invading….

  5. dennisambler

    Very interesting to see IPCC author Myles Allen in the photo. He from the Department of Physics and the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, is an ardent AGW promoter and was a Lead Author on IPCC AR5, WG1, Chapter 10: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to Regional. He is also been co-responsible for the Carbon Budget idea, in a paper titled “Towards The Trillionth Tonne”, which spawned the “Leave it in the Ground” and “Stranded Assets” memes.

    In 2003, he claimed the floods in the UK in the year 2000 could be scientifically attributed to “global warming”, saying also, “while scientists had been more easily able to link climate change to the European heat wave of 2003 – an event which resulted in 40,000 deaths, drought, fires and crop failure – establishing the link to floods had been a longer process. He said: “Whether or not a flood occurs in any given year is still an act of God but with the help of thousands of volunteers we are beginning to see how human influence on climate may be starting to load God’s dice.”

    He was on the compensation angle even then:

    “The vast numbers affected by the effects of climate change, such as flooding, drought and forest fires, mean that potentially people, organisations and even countries could be seeking compensation for the damage caused.

    “It’s not a question we could stand up and survive in a court of law at the moment, but it’s the sort of question we should be working towards scientifically,” Myles Allen, a physicist at Oxford University, UK, told the BBC World Service’s Discovery programme.”

    “Some of it might be down to things you’d have trouble suing – like the Sun – (I don’t think he meant the tabloid), so you obviously need to work how particularly human influence has contributed to the overall change in risk,” the scientist, who has worked with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said.” “But once you’ve done that, then we as scientists can essentially hand the problem over to the lawyers, for them to assess whether the change in risk is enough for the courts to decide that a settlement could be made.”

    You can read much more about Allen and his climate games here:

  6. terastienstra

    …targeting carbon producers??? How ridiculous. Fossil fuel companies don’t produce carbon, they find it and others burn it. These activists are totally out of whack. But you already showed that.

  7. Keitho

    Political science. Let’s see how they get on with the state oil companies that produce two thirds of the world’s oil.

  8. Joe Public

    If a gun user, not a gunmaker, is guilty of murder; how can a FF access-expediter be guilty of the ‘harm’ caused by its product-users such as climate-activism beano-attenders?

  9. jim

    Thank you for an enjoyable piece. I think both sides are a little myopic on this issue however because there are two fundamental differences between the “activism” to get in on the money made by tobacco companies in the 80’s and the contemporary effort to collect money from oil companies (i.e. oil consumers, i.e. the general public) under the guise of climate change. First, objective research shows that tobacco is harmful to many of the people who use it over a long period of time. There is no evidence that climate change, regardless of its etiology, will be anything more than an inconvenience to humans and a geologically routine variance for everything else on the planet. Second, the conspiracy to hide the truth regarding the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels are affected by temperature and not the other way around is on behalf of the activists. The silver lining of climate change activism is that in their effort to make science support their faith, CO2 activists– while producing heaps of hypotheses– have only come up with actual evidence that they are wrong. Consequently it is CO2 activists who must now hide the research which doesn’t support their business, just like big tobacco did before it was “brought down”.

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  11. manicbeancounter

    Jim at 17.47 makes two very valid points of difference between tobacco and “climate science”.
    First is that is is established that tobacco is harmful. There is no established major harm from global warming.
    Second, there is no conspiracy to hide the truth. This actually follows for the first point. It is only possible to conspire to deceive others as to the truth if there is a truth to hide. There are two alternatives here. (a) There is a valid difference of opinion as to what the truth actually is, as the major harm has not been established. (b) The “truth” is a matter of belief, akin to religious truths.
    Both of this alternatives are plausible explanations of belief in “Climate Science”. It is shown by
    – Strong discrimination in accepting evidence, dependent on whether it supports or disagrees with the belief.
    – Accepting hearsay evidence. For instance Oreskes and Lewandowsky strong acceptance of poor opinion polls of the trivial forms of AGW hypothesis (belief the world has warmed and human beings are to some extent the cause of it,
    – Failing to recognize personal biases and political beliefs. Like many on the far left, belief leads to perceptions of a higher form of truth that is prior to experience. The implications are that those who do not see these higher truths are somehow blinkered and their comments are harmful to others.
    – Failing to pursue anything that would undermine belief. Central to this is failing to define climatology as a science, as this will show that policy is outside of the “science”. Also, failing to establish objective and independent, standards of measurement, whether of measuring of average temperature, or the measuring of GHG emissions.

  12. Bob R W

    Thank you very much for raising awareness to this point.

    One may argue that a civil (or criminal?) lawsuit may be filled against this institution (CAI), based on RICO act ; a subpoena may be sent with a (electronic?) discovery process.

    But I’m not a lawyer neither a US citizen or resident.

  13. Frank Davis

    Another Tobacco Control activist present (but obscured) in the photo would seem to be Robert Proctor, author of The Nazi War on Cancer. The reason these activists are present is because they succeeded in duping the world in ways that climate activists have yet to manage.

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  16. Mike Mangan

    Heh. Compare and contrast. Lamar smith’s request for NOAA internal documents and NY AG request for Exxon Mobil internal documents. Can’t whine about one and not the other.

  17. Ron Clutz

    Thank you for your in depth analysis of this legal maneuvering.

    Alarmists have not succeeded to convince the public to support their agenda, witness the US legislature in the hands of skeptics. So the alternative is to convince the judges, who are far fewer in number, but with the power to make it happen. We are left to hope that the legal system is able to apply rationality based upon legal precedents.

    Climate activists are increasingly looking to law courts to advance the cause, including a clause in the COP treaty. It could backfire. Background is here:

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  19. lewis

    The tobacco settlements were an exercise in tort law transfer of assets from the poor to the wealthy tort lawyers. They were never about tobacco – it was only a method to transfer wealth. Let me make a short explanation.

    The states and the tort lawyers conspired to sue the tobacco companies because the product they sold caused a – supposed, never proved – increase in costs of Medicaid expenses due to tobacco related illness. Yes, the tobacco companies knew the link. Finally, they ended up with a settlement of huge proportions – the tort lawyers get their money, the states got theirs and the tobacco companies had years to pay. Immediately the tobacco companies raised the price of cigarettes on the consumers – causing them to pay the states and the lawyers but the consumers – the butt end of the law suits were never at the table. But they pay the fines.

    The states did not use the money to offset the costs to the taxpayers, in North Carolina for instance, they set up the Golden Leaf Foundation to give the money to special interests – read politically connected.

    The same will be true with Exxon – it’s about how to take money – it has nothing to do with helping the environment or people.

    Have a nice day.

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  21. Jeff

    Lewis makes a great point about what the real end game was for Tobacco Tort Lawyers. They didn’t want to ban tobacco; they wanted a share of the profit. As soon as government could manage to capture a share of tobacco dollars beyond the existing tax base, they were all in. And the tobacco sellers then transferred their costs to their customer base, as did the state; governments make much more from a sale of a pack of cigs than the producer/marketers do. And tobacco is still legal.

    And so it also seems highly likely that the end game of the cabal of activists is 1.) wealth redistribution to tort lawyers, 2.) cause, ability, etc. of government at al levels to ‘tax’ what is bad so as to build their bank accounts with funds to buy off the voters with more wealth redistribution. Finally the ‘carbon companies’ targeted will ‘settle’ and agree to a timetable of payments. Fossil fuels are not going away in our lifetime, so the cost will necessarily come up so producers can pay the piper. The poor will be hurt the most, so expect government to lessen the blow by heavily subsidizing the poor’s energy costs.

    As the price of fossil fuels rise, electric cost per KWHr will increase. The ultimate goal is to make ‘carbon’ more expensive than renewables (wind, solar, etc.) so as to compel the free market to spend on renewables.

    I believe many activists and governments are thinking along these lines.

  22. betapug

    Hilarious! Jim Hoggan (dark shades in front row) actually partnered with a real racketeer, John Lefebvre, guilty of laundering offshore gambling money to start DeSmogBlog. Both on board with the Suzuki Foundation.

    Hoggan & Associates PR clients include Shell, Alcoa, airlines, road building projects for whom “reputational image management” and “issue framing” are key deliverables. Black is white, up is down…what is it you need today?

    Once the pipeline to the resource hungry media “New York Times DotEarth, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, ThinkProgress and Treehugger…Guardian, the BBC, the Globe and Mail, the CBC and Associated Press, to name just a few.” is set up, pump the “memes, ready to heat and serve” down the line and wait for the explosion.
    “At Hoggan we think of media in the same way we think about fireworks… we are conscious of the need to handle them with care and make sure nobody drops the match at the wrong time.”

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  27. retiredphysicseducator


    It is obvious to any physicist that the greenhouse conjecture is false, because the direct solar radiation reaching the surface is less than a third of what would be required to explain observed surface temperatures.

    James Hansen noted this apparent discrepancy and, not realizing that the rest of the required thermal energy is in fact supplied during the day by non-radiative processes, he wrongly assumed that radiation from the cold atmosphere could be added to solar radiation and the total used in Stefan-Boltzmann calculations. But even the net of 390W/m^2 which included the back radiation would not be enough because it is variable flux and can thus only achieve a mean temperature much closer to freezing point. He really needed over 450W/m^2 but glossed over that fact and “taught” the world of climatology the totally incorrect physics based on compounding the radiation from two effectively sub-zero sources and assuming that the sum “explained” observations.

    Now, most of the atmospheric radiation comes from the most prolific “greenhouse” gas, water vapor which is claimed to cause warming, though evidence suggests the opposite. So where did it all go so wrong? Hansen incorrectly assumed that, without IR-active greenhouse gases, the temperatures in the troposphere would be isothermal. That is not what the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us, because it says entropy will be a maximum, not temperatures equal. Every vortex cooling tube in the world demonstrates how a force field (like gravity or centrifugal force) sets up a radial temperature gradient as that force acts on molecules in flight between collisions. The “lapse rate” (climatology speak for temperature gradient) is not due to imaginary “parcels” of air rising, expanding and cooling, because there is nothing to hold any such parcels together as the molecules move randomly between collisions at speeds of about 1,800 Km/hour.

    This temperature gradient evolves at the molecular level in accord with the process of maximum entropy production, and that state of maximum entropy is reached when there are no remaining unbalanced energy potentials. That means that the sum of mean molecular gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy is homogeneous, and so there is a temperature gradient.

    Once we understand that the temperature gradient is what physicists call the state of thermodynamic equilibrium, then everything falls into place. We can deduce quite simply that new solar energy absorbed in the stratosphere and upper atmosphere each morning will disturb the equilibrium and it can only be restored by downward non-radiative heat transfers, these being the real source of the missing energy Hansen tried to explain with back radiation.

    So, in fact, temperatures in a planetary system build up from anchoring layers in the upper troposphere and above, all the way to the core, because the temperature gradient, forming at the molecular level, can be calculated and shown to occur in solids, liquids and gases. It forms by a slow process which can be over-ridden, and is, in the oceans and the stratosphere, but, in general, it dominates. It is observed in all planetary tropospheres, and so the probability of this “heat creep” hypothesis being wrong is millions to one against.


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