Lawsuit-Supporting Academic: Attribution Science Was Designed Specifically To Bolster Climate Litigation



A prominent academic with direct ties to the climate litigation campaign confirmed in a recent E&E News article that so-called “climate attribution science” was designed specifically to support lawsuits against major energy companies. The comments undercut the credibility or objectivity of its proponents, including Peter Frumhoff of the Union Concerned Scientist who has been delivering different messages to public and private audiences about the use of attribution science.

Climate litigation supporters have claimed that attribution science should serve as objective evidence in lawsuits against major energy companies, as it purportedly links a specific amount of greenhouse gas emissions to specific operators, thus providing an avenue by which a court could assign damages to companies. Yet, as University of Oxford climate expert and litigation supporter Friederike Otto told E&E News, attribution science was created solely to bolster these lawsuits. As the article notes:

“But Friederike Otto, a climate expert at the University of Oxford who has worked with [Myles] Allen, said her efforts to link extreme weather events to climate change have always been tied to the possibility of legal action. ‘Unlike every other branch of climate science or science in general, event attribution was actually originally suggested with the courts in mind,’ she said.” (emphasis added)

This stunning admission from Otto undercuts any claim that attribution science should be viewed as a neutral or objective resource by courts of law or policymakers. In fact, Otto herself has relied on climate attribution work to support climate lawsuits as a 2019 E&E News story mentions:

“Friederike Otto, a climate expert at the University of Oxford and lead scientist at the World Weather Attribution project, said she talks ‘a lot with lawyers’ about how attribution science could be used as a litigation tool.” (emphasis added)

Otto also signed onto a motion in support of San Francisco and Oakland’s climate lawsuit and the E&E News article mentions that she works with Myles Allen, another climate academic at Oxford, who, the publication notes, “authored what is widely considered the first attribution study on the 2003 European heat wave,” and he wrote an op-ed that same year linking attribution science and lawsuits.

Nor is this the first time that supporters of climate litigation have cited the need for attribution science to bolster their lawsuits like plaintiffs’ attorney Vic Sher did in 2017.

Different Audiences, Different Messages

For years, Peter Frumhoff – a key player in the climate litigation campaign has been working behind-the-scenes for years to push attribution research forward in the hopes it could be used for litigation. But in the most recent E&E News story, he stated the exact opposite to a public audience.

“In an interview with E&E News, Frumhoff rejected the notion that his work was designed to help local challengers in the climate liability lawsuits…‘The research we’ve done and published on attribution has definitely not been motivated by any specific piece of litigation or to inform any specific piece of litigation,’ Frumhoff said.” (emphasis added)

It runs counter to everything Frumhoff has said to fellow activists in the past as they have made this research central to the efforts to promote climate litigation for nearly a decade. In 2012, he and the Union of Concerned Scientists helped organize the La Jolla conference, where the playbook for the entire climate litigation campaign was designed, which included discussion on the attribution research done by Richard Heede, the leader of the Climate Accountability Institute. Heede is one of the preeminent persons working in the attribution space and his “Carbon Majors” report was highlighted in the E&E News article and has received extensive media attention.

The summary document from the La Jolla conference showed that Matt Pawa – a plaintiffs’ attorney who has served as outside counsel in multiple climate cases – believed that attribution research would aid litigation:

“Most of the workshop’s participants responded positively to Heede’s research. Matt Pawa thought the information could prove quite useful in helping to establish joint and several liability in tort cases, but he cautioned that, in practice, a judge would likely hesitate to exert joint and several liability against a carbon-producing company if the lion’s share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could not be attributed to that company specifically. Nevertheless, he said this kind of accounting would no doubt inspire more litigation that could have a powerful effect in beginning to change corporate behavior.” (emphasis added)

That document concludes with a clear message about the use of attribution science:

“Several participants agreed to work together on some of the attribution work already under way…and build an advocacy component around those findings.”

In 2015, Frumhoff told Dr. Edward Maibach, who leads GMU’s Center for Climate Change Communication, in an email that “we’re also in the process of exploring other state-based approaches to holding fossil fuel companies legally accountable—we think there’ll likely be a strong basis for encouraging state (e.g. AG) action forward.”

The next year, Frumhoff secretly briefed a group of state attorneys general who were pursuing climate lawsuits against major energy companies, and the next year, co-wrote an op-ed in The Guardian touting his own attribution science.  Part of the piece reads:

“As scientists further identify the role that climate change has made to exacerbating this tragedy, courts of law and public opinion should judge whether they are paying their fair share.”

Frumhoff has a well-established history of touting attribution science and supporting climate litigation. For him to now claim in 2021 that the research wasn’t designed to bolster the lawsuits shows that he has different messages for public and private audiences.

The Biased Nature of Attribution Science

Otto’s statement in E&E News is further confirmation that attribution science was created to support climate litigation, as Roger Pielke Jr., a professor at the University of Colorado’s Center for Science & Technology Policy Research, explained:

“Climate event attribution research as stealth advocacy … So-called event attribution studies are perfectly legitimate but should be held to the same level of rigor as any other area of research. Deploying them as a basis to file lawsuits or influence policy making only underscores the need for such rigor.” (emphasis added)

Pielke Jr., who has written about climate change and the need for viable solutions but sees how attribution science can easily be corrupted, certainly seems to be on to something.

One of the biggest names behind attribution science is Richard Heede and his research was funded by the Rockefeller network, which has manufactured the entire climate litigation campaign. He co-founded the Climate Accountability Institute, which was also an organizer of the La Jolla conference, and where Pawa previously served on the board of directors and Frumhoff is on the board of advisors. Other past and current CAI directors and advisors are noted climate litigation supporters including Naomi Oreskes and Carroll Muffett.

Heede’s “Carbon Majors” report plainly stated its purpose was to hold energy companies “legally responsible” and to support litigation:

“In particular I want to thank Peter Frumhoff, who has been the champion not only of the database but of its scientific value to climate modelers, analysts, climate leaders and policy experts, as well as to litigators in pursuit of climate justice and the protection of human rights.” (emphasis added)

In 2019, Heede worked with The Guardian to publish a series on climate change and lawsuits, which included an op-ed where he stated that he is working to undermine the energy industry:

The Climate Accountability Institute was formed in 2011 to confront fossil fuel companies. … We work with investigators, human rights commissioners, advocates and lawyers in an effort to curb the carbon industry’s enthusiasm for unabated fossil fuel development.” (emphasis added)

Nor is Pawa the only plaintiffs’ attorney to pursue attribution science to support climate litigation. Vic Sher, a partner at Sher Edling LLP, which is representing the majority of  the states and municipalities that have brought climate lawsuits against energy producers, said in 2017 he has worked with Heede to further develop attribution science in order to help strengthen his own cases.

Read the full article at the source here.

HT/Climate Dispatch

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Tom Halla
April 29, 2021 10:15 am

“Attribution science” looks to be almost as bogus as Social Cost of Carbon calculations.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 29, 2021 1:28 pm

I would recommend deleting the word, “almost.”

Reply to  Tom Halla
April 29, 2021 3:16 pm

It is a marketing concept invented in that field and not “science” or anything to do with science at all … it’s correct name is attribution statistics (

Only climate scientists would have the stupidity to put “science” after the name.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  LdB
April 29, 2021 5:43 pm

“It is a marketing concept invented in that field and not “science” or anything to do with science at all”

Not science at all. It’s climate change propaganda. They have no evidence to link extreme weather with CO2. It’s pure speculation.

Judges are usually pretty good at separating out facts from pure speculation. Unless pure speculation is presented as factual. But the judge ought to be able to dig deep enough to see they are not being shown facts.

The judge should say: Where’s your evidence for your claims?” That would be the end of the case.

Patrick healy
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 29, 2021 11:17 pm

Well said Tom.
Now what are we to make of the ‘newish’ BP boss from County Kerry, who is ‘guiding’ the company away from being an energy producer into the Fantasyland of windmills?
He has already surrendered to this job.

John Garrett
Reply to  Patrick healy
April 30, 2021 5:36 am

Looney is loony.

BP shares have had ZERO (as in zip, nil, nada, none, zilch) price appreciation since December, 1995.

That’s right folks— in more than twenty-five (25) years, BP shares have gone exactly nowhere.

The windbag, self-promoter John Browne (a/k/a “Baron Browne of Madingley”) bought up Amoco and ARCO. What have BP shareholders got to show for it?

Reply to  Tom Halla
April 30, 2021 2:19 am

To what would they attribute all of the rather benign and clement weather that seems to happen all around the world every day?

Also I see no mention anywhere in their scrambled thinking of all of the benefits to mankind that fossil fuels have provided. These can be demonstrated by observation without recourse to arcane statistical torture.

These people are malign malcontents who think they are standing up to Big Oil on behalf of the Little Guy when it is simple arrogance. Pfft

Reply to  Tom Halla
April 30, 2021 1:54 pm

Calling President Eisenhower! Your need on the Red Phone to give your 1961 Farewell Address again!

CD in Wisconsin
April 29, 2021 10:17 am

So, in other words, this isn’t about the climate is it?

Joe B
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
April 29, 2021 11:31 am

CD, of course not.
This industry-destroying movement is but a tool – albeit a very powerful tool – employed to undermine countries, political ideologies, competing technologies … on and on.
It is a potent, insidious, ultra sophistiticated non kinetic weapon that is kneecapping targets worldwide.

Reply to  Joe B
April 29, 2021 12:00 pm

It is forcing them to take a knee, beg, good boy.. A forward-looking ideology.

Richard Page
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
April 29, 2021 12:11 pm

Nope. Litigation as a means to bring the powerful energy companies to heel and under control. Control of the US oligarchies and elites. How can you drain the swamp when the swamp controls everything – becoming the only game in town?

Reply to  Richard Page
April 29, 2021 1:40 pm

It isn’t draining the swamp when the swamp is the one bringing the lawsuits.

Reply to  Richard Page
April 29, 2021 1:43 pm

So instead of power being diffused among competing corporations and the electorate, you want one central government to control everything? And that would be an improvement? Really?

Have you ever read Orwell’s 1984?

Richard Page
Reply to  Ralph Dave Westfall
April 29, 2021 2:04 pm

Oh, boy. Wade, Ralph Dave Westfall – I think you totally missed the point of my post. I was trying to point out that I believe that this might be the purpose of the litigation, not that I’m in favour of it – I’m really not. Of course it isn’t draining the swamp when the swamp is the group trying to do this. My point is that this is happening and what can be done to stop or reverse it? This ties into the Podesta story and the powerful oligarch’s backing the Democrats – the so-called ‘Vineyard’ connection – it’s one big connected web of self interest and power. It’s ruining America and infecting the rest of the world and it needs to be stopped.

Curious George
April 29, 2021 10:18 am

Uneducated guesses are a new science.

John Garrett
April 29, 2021 10:25 am

I hate liars.

“I love liberty and I hate fraud.”
-H. L. Mencken

Reply to  John Garrett
April 29, 2021 4:42 pm

If they are willing to lie about the science, why are we surprised that they lie about their motives? I think lawsuits should be brought against those who pervert science and publish “Attribution science” pieces as perpetrating a fraud for monetary gain.

Gregory Woods
April 29, 2021 10:28 am
Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 29, 2021 10:43 am

from that URL
“…officials cite the “mounting” evidence of climate change as a major global threat, specifically noting a 2017 letter signed by more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries explicitly warning humanity of the need to shift away from economies dependent on fossil fuels and preserve natural ecosystems to stop environmental degradation…”

Of course the vast majority of those scientists are not climate scientists- so they know no more about the subject than my plumber, probably less. Preserve natural ecosystems? Like, destroying millions of acres of farms and forests for solar “farms”?? I keep pointing out this fact here in the climate emergency caliphate of Massachusetts and I get zero response.

Joe B
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 29, 2021 11:44 am

Mr. Zorzin, do not despair.
Do not stop communicating.
I, also, regularly engage in the Massachusetts cybersphere in these matters.

The growing signs of the incoming Grand Solar Minimum are observable, tangible, and are arousing increasing attention from the wider populace.
If we sincere Truth Seekers continue to accurately, respectfully, and effectively present data in these matters, seeds of knowledge will be sown that will bear fruit in the coming years.

The natural inertia of people has been co-opted by nefarious actors.
This is starting to change as more pain (primarily economic) is inflicted and Globull Warming scenarios are found to be wrong.

Never. Ever. Give up.

Reply to  Joe B
April 29, 2021 4:44 pm

Amen. Thanks.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
April 29, 2021 12:02 pm

Destroy farms, forests, and grazing lands. Keep it Green.

Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 29, 2021 1:55 pm

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a governor’s executive orders do not override the US Constitution, therefore Andrew Cuomo could not stop religious services from happening. The 4 dissenting judges said that since it was an “emergency” that the US Constitution could be suspended.

Well, add 4 more leftist justices, and suddenly that 5-4 decision becomes 8-5. Since there is an “emergency”, a “climate emergency”, it is okay to suspend the US Bill of Rights. No more free speech — can’t be having people “denying the emergency”. No more religion — can’t have people worshiping God instead of the state and its current goddess Kamala Harris. A warrant requirement is part of the Bill of Right — gone and now the heavily armed ‘social worker’, who replaced the defunded police, can search your private property anytime he wants. Firearm ownership — gone, after all I have been told that the 2nd Amendment is apparently not absolute. Silence implies guilt, for the 5th Amendment protecting you against self-incrimination is gone. The right to have a speedy trial or a jury trial is gone, and so is the protection against unreasonable bail. So, now people who have wrong thoughts can languish in prison without a trial and no way to get out. All those things gone, because this is a “climate emergency”.

This is, of course, hypothetical. But it is not far-fetched.

Jeffery P
Reply to  Wade
April 30, 2021 6:55 am

The federal courts and SCOTUS seem to have found a Covid exception in the constitution somewhere. How else could they allow illegal changes to voting to happen?

By failing to act before the election, they endorsed the practice of bureaucrats and officials overriding election laws.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeffery P
Rick C
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 29, 2021 1:58 pm

Well I can see why. I’ve been there and the climate really sucks.

Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 29, 2021 4:17 pm

“Hawaii to become the first state to declare climate emergency” – what emergency? They run out of suntan lotion? Most people would love to live there, and they are declaring a climate bullshit, oops, I mean emergency! Can you sue people for lying?

Reply to  PCman999
April 29, 2021 6:56 pm

Well the SCOTUS ruled the “Stolen Valor” law that made it illegal to claim to have won US military medals that you in fact had not won was unconstitutional, so NO in the US, you cannot. At least not until a conservative SCOTUS overturns the previous ruling.

Jeffery P
Reply to  PCman999
April 30, 2021 6:59 am

Hawaii is really hurting. Tourism is way down and their economy is in the tank. I would expect nothing else from the leftists who run the state. They sure aren’t going to make reforms.

It actually makes sense in a sick way for them to try to exploit the climate change boogey man and get billion$ redistributed to them.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Jeffery P
May 1, 2021 10:11 pm

There are those in Hawaii who wish to shut down tourism, Hawaii for Hawaiians

Maybe this is their stick

Kevin kilty
April 29, 2021 10:37 am

Spiders sharing a web.

Gregory Woods
April 29, 2021 10:46 am

I apologize for another OT:

German climate law puts unfair burden on young, court rules

paul courtney
April 29, 2021 11:19 am

Personal injury lawyers who can’t find an expert to support their theory have learned to simply make them. With a 3D printer, if necessary to get it to a jury.

Ed Zuiderwijk
April 29, 2021 11:21 am

Shameless parasites.

Joe B
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
April 29, 2021 11:50 am

As it always was, Mr. Zuiderwijk, as it always was … and will be.
The eternal innate power of Truth will triumph, but we need to continue in our collective efforts in battling these scum in the here and now.

Jon R
April 29, 2021 11:36 am

Exxon plans to make a lot more from the carbon credit scam than these huckster lawyers could ever take from them.

Reply to  Jon R
April 29, 2021 12:08 pm


Reply to  Shelly
April 29, 2021 12:48 pm

How? By trading nonexistent benefits for very tangible tax credits.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Rob_Dawg
April 29, 2021 1:40 pm

This makes them fiends without benefits.

April 29, 2021 11:45 am

Attribution science = fraud masqueraded as science.

John Bell
April 29, 2021 11:52 am

Horrifying how the leftist parasites obsess constantly about stealing money instead of how to earn money the honest way.

Richard Page
Reply to  John Bell
April 30, 2021 4:36 am

Oh, they earn money the honest way, at times. But this way they get more money quicker.

April 29, 2021 11:54 am

not been motivated by any specific piece of litigation or to inform any specific piece of litigation,’ Frumhoff said.”
A trick in misdirection used by lawyers and politicians to lie while telling the truth. The phrase “any specific piece” is the key. Re-read the sentence with this removed and the lie is exposed.

The motivation was litigation in general, not litigation in specifics.

Look, nothing up my sleeve. What about in your hand? Your pocket? Under the table? Behind your back?

Last edited 1 year ago by ferdberple
Reply to  Ferdberple
April 29, 2021 12:03 pm

yup, spotted that sleight of hand

Reply to  Ferdberple
April 29, 2021 9:06 pm

Qualifiers point to the hidden agenda

April 29, 2021 12:01 pm

China has the largest emissions and is still increasing them. How much is being “attributed” to China?

Andrew Kerber
April 29, 2021 12:02 pm

Of course once the data gets out and its demonstrated that none of those weather events show any change in number or intensity, attribution theory should immediately be shown to be invalid. But of course the scientific method is irrelevant in the discussion.

April 29, 2021 12:26 pm

The philosophy, science, art, and leverage of plausible.

Steve Z
April 29, 2021 12:47 pm

[QUOTE FROM ARTICLE]”Climate litigation supporters have claimed that attribution science should serve as objective evidence in lawsuits against major energy companies, as it purportedly links a specific amount of greenhouse gas emissions to specific operators, thus providing an avenue by which a court could assign damages to companies.” [END QUOTE]

One problem for a court would be to determine who, if anyone, is “damaged” by CO2 emissions. If CO2 diffuses fairly evenly throughout the entire atmosphere of the earth, would that mean that the entire world population has been “damaged”, including the employees of the CO2 emitting company?

And precisely how have all these people suffered due to CO2 emissions? Are there any diseases which are aggravated by having 410 ppm of CO2 in the air as compared to 350 ppm decades ago? Some may claim that slightly higher sea levels may increase the risk of coastal flooding, but what about most of those who live more than 10 feet above sea level, whose risk of flooding is unchanged? Have they been damaged–not really!

Could there be offsets to the “damages” (credits) for the increased productivity of farms due to higher CO2 levels, which leads to a more abundant food supply?

Then again, is a company which produces coal, refined oil products, or natural gas really responsible for what others do with their products? Other than the CO2 produced in the production process, these companies are not really responsible for the “damage” done when other people burn their products. If other people buy gasoline or diesel fuel to power their cars or trucks, or buy natural gas to heat their homes, those consumers are actually emitting the CO2, and deriving benefit from the energy released, not the production company!

If an airline buys jet fuel from an oil refinery, the planes (under the direction of the airline) are actually emitting CO2, not the oil refinery that produced the jet fuel. So who pays the damages, the oil company or the airline? Or the passengers, who reaped the benefit of flying from City A to City B at over 500 mph?

Then there are the electric power companies, which will only produce as much electricity as demanded by their consumers. They may emit CO2, but they are not forcing anyone to use their electric power. And all those virtuous people charging up their electric cars with power obtained from fossil fuel–do they have to pay damages as well?

By the way, every living human being (and animal) exhales CO2. If an average person exhales 2 liters per breath, and takes 12 breaths per minute, and their exhaled breath contains 3% CO2, he/she would exhale about 2 kg of CO2 per day, or 0.73 metric tonnes per year. So let’s everybody pay a breath tax to the government, which will then distribute the money back to the people (sarc).

Or better yet, let’s not even bother, since nobody will voluntarily stop breathing to save the planet!

April 29, 2021 1:06 pm

Time for energy producers to sue these promoters of fake attribution studies for damages.

April 29, 2021 1:21 pm

This is an OT follow-up on my comment of 10 days ago
The road was finally cleared of snow today but only for one vehicle at the time.

Joel O'Bryan
April 29, 2021 1:52 pm

Michael Crichton knew about the attempts at attribution 20 year ago about the climate scam. The underlying theme/plot in his State of Fear novel was attribution to enable a litigation and a lawsuit where the defendants simply would settle, like tobacco companies did, for many billions of dollars.

Dr Crichton was a true genius on seeing through all the various characters and players in the climate scam in its first decade of the real junk science of CO2 attribution to climate warming.

John Garrett
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 29, 2021 2:53 pm

Crichton’s book was what started me looking at the “evidence” purporting to underlie the “Catastrophic/dangerous, CO2-driven anthropogenic global warming CONJECTURE.

It was then that I discovered what Francis Menton (“Manhattan Contrarian”) has accurately labeled it—
“The Greatest Scientific Fraud of All Time.”

Mark E Shulgasser
April 29, 2021 2:32 pm

But if you actually believe that excess man-made CO2 will bring on catastrophe, and can overlook the sense in which you are being paid to believe that, then you can justify this tactic.

Chris Hanley
April 29, 2021 3:15 pm

… we’re also in the process of exploring other state-based approaches to holding fossil fuel companies legally accountable …

That seems to assume a chain of causality that is very tenuous at best.
If any entity is to be considered liable for a specific costly climate event surely a chain of causality has first to be establish i.e. the climate event would not have occurred without fossil fuel burning or would not have been as severe.
Besides fossil fuel companies merely manufacture and supply the product, no-one is obliged to use it, volenti non fit injuria “to a willing person, no injury is done”.

Chris Hanley
April 29, 2021 4:00 pm

In Naomi’s ideal world when a severe weather event occurs fleets of electric ambulances rush in, electric helicopters bring in emergency medical staff and electric heavy aircraft lift in emergency supplies and shelters — or severe weather events just never happen.

April 29, 2021 4:13 pm

Sounds like they are running a racket – but I won’t hold my breath waiting for Team Biden to bring the criminals to justice. Also any judgements would have to take into account that any attribution would have to be prorated by the amount of CO2 increasingly being pumped out by the rest of the world. I guess the defendants won’t be allowed to point out that it was warmer in the past and climate related deaths are way down in the past century, right? Only accepted science fiction allowed in the court.

April 30, 2021 5:57 am

Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Jeffery P
April 30, 2021 7:02 am

I don’t see a definition of attribution science anywhere. Not in this post or the source article. Can we include a definition somewhere so we know we are all talking about the same thing?

Jeffery P
Reply to  Jeffery P
April 30, 2021 11:48 am

Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Ferris Bueller?

May 1, 2021 4:33 pm

“A prominent academic with direct ties to the climate litigation campaign confirmed in a recent E&E News article that so-called “climate attribution science” was designed specifically to support lawsuits against major energy companies. ”

I’ve suspected this for years, now somebody credible has finally confirmed it.

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