MAY 13, 2021 | WILLIAM ALLISON
A major bombshell dropped today about the nationally coordinated climate litigation campaign after it was revealed that Naomi Oreskes – the Harvard researcher and well-known “Exxon Knew” activist – is on retainer with Sher Edling, the plaintiffs’ law firm serving as the outside counsel for more than a dozen states and municipalities that have filed climate lawsuits around the country.
The New York Times previously reported that Oreskes “conceived” the infamous 2012 La Jolla conference where the playbook for the entire campaign was developed in her role as co-founder of the Rockefeller-funded Climate Accountability Institute.
Now Oreskes has gone from planning the litigation campaign to becoming a full-on participant in these lawsuits, as CNN reports:
“The company said Naomi Oreskes, one of the main authors of the study, is on retainer with a law firm that is leading lawsuits against Exxon and others in the industry. Exxon called this a ‘blatant conflict of interest.’ Oreskes was not immediately available for comment.” (emphasis added)
This revelation came out today in coverage that was focused on a new study from Oreskes and fellow Harvard researcher and activist Geoffrey Supran that aimed to undermine the energy industry through a blatantly biased and subjective examination of ExxonMobil’s public communications under the guise of “peer-reviewed” research.
Yet Oreskes, nor her colleague Supran, did not disclose this business relationship with Sher Edling in numerous interviews published on the study, a clear attempt to hide the conflict of interest as they published yet another piece of research with the goal of supporting climate lawsuits.
Furthermore, in the same deposition that Oreskes acknowledged her work with Sher Edling, she also disclosed she previously had a retainer agreement with Matt Pawa, another plaintiffs’ attorney representing climate lawsuits and key participant in the La Jolla conference. Oreskes said:
“I agreed that I would be willing to be a consultant, and I believe that we – we had an exchange. I believe I signed a retainer agreement. I believe we discussed what my hourly rate would be.”
We’ve seen this playbook before of academics working with plaintiffs’ attorneys in support of climate litigation. Ann Carlson, formerly of UCLA Law School’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, worked as a consultant for Sher Edling, and Michael Burger, the Executive Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, serves as Of Counsel for the law firm.
New Rockefeller-Funded Study Ignores Demand For Oil And Gas
The revelation of Oreskes’s business relationship with Sher Edling amid the coverage of her latest paper demonstrates exactly why her and Supran’s work can’t be perceived as objective.
The paper claims to examine ExxonMobil’s “rhetoric and framing to shape public discourse on climate change,” but is filled with the same unobjective research methods and analysis they have deployed before. Relying on similarly faulty analysis and methodology in this most recent study undermines any confidence that the authors are seeking objective truths or a greater understanding of our energy and environmental challenges.
For example, the study alleges that the company’s public mentions of continued demand for oil and natural gas products are essentially an effort to shift responsibility for climate change onto consumers.
“One of our key findings is that ExxonMobil’s public communications have shifted responsibility for climate change away from itself and onto consumers by publicly fixating on consumer energy ‘demand’ rather than the fossil fuels that the company supplies,” Supran told Axios.
Supran’s allegation, however, completely ignores the very real, consistent demand for fossil fuels, which is not the result of clever marketing but of basic economic principles. As Axios notes in its article:
“Most independent analyses of long-term energy use and demand show oil and natural gas remaining large sources of energy for decades is a consensus position, even in a world that begins implementing much more aggressive climate policies that significantly cut demand.”
Case-in-point: this study was published amid wall-to-wall coverage of consumers lining up for miles at gas stations amid gasoline shortages across the southeastern United States. Supran’s desire to lay the blame of climate change solely at the feet of companies ignores that we all rely upon and burn fossil fuels, thereby contributing to climate change.
Not surprisingly, this latest paper was financially supported by the Rockefeller Family Fund – part of the network of Rockefeller groups that have manufactured the entire climate litigation campaign. True to form, the paper suggests that its methods and findings could be used to support the Rockefeller-promoted climate cases. The paper also received glowing coverage from InsideClimateNews – the Rockefeller-funded news website.
The paper was also published in the journal One Earth, whose advisory board includes Michael Mann, who also sits on the board of the Climate Accountability Institute – the group that organized the infamous La Jolla conference in 2012 where the playbook for climate lawsuits was developed, and which, of course, receives money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
A Track Record of Activism
As Energy In Depth as shown before, the political and legal attacks on the energy industry are a part of an orchestrated campaign run by wealthy foundations, plaintiffs’ attorneys, and environmental activist groups.
At the heart of this campaign is Oreskes and Supran, who have established a clear pattern of conducting research that that omits keys facts, takes information of context, and uses data from biased sources. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering that neither Oreskes nor Supran are objective researchers, but rather self-proclaimed “activist” participants in the climate litigation campaign.
Oreskes no problems making her feelings known publicly:
— NaomiOreskes (@NaomiOreskes) October 21, 2015
Oreskes’ and Supran’s most prominent research was their 2017 paper examining the internal documents and public communications of Exxon and Mobil from the 1970s up to 2014. This deeply flawed paper conflated three different companies as if they were always one organization, missed thousands of relevant documents, and they even downplayed an expert they previously cited. That paper, just like today’s study, was also funded by the Rockefeller Family Fund.
Moreover, an expert in the field identified numerous flaws in their analysis and noted that their bias against the company prevented them from producing an objective examination:
“Content analysis coding ought to be conducted with coders who are at arm’s-length with regard to the research, in order to maximize objectivity. Optimally, coders should be blind to the research questions or goals. In the S&O study, the coders were not blind. In fact, they were as non-blind as could be imagined. They were the investigators themselves, as well as an affiliated graduate student. In this particular case, the problematic nature of informed coders is magnified by the coders’ long-time and intensive involvement in the popular communication of climate change. Further, two of the coders have publicly demonstrated particular biases that existed before the execution of the S&O study (Oreskes, 2004; Oreskes, 2015a, 2015b; Oreskes & Conway, 2010; Supran, 2016). (emphasis added)
Oreskes has also co-authored at least two climate attribution studies with Richard Heede – the director of the Climate Accountability Institute. This research claims to link a specific amount of carbon emissions with specific energy companies, but “attribution was actually originally suggested with the courts in mind,” as Heede and other litigation proponents have publicly acknowledged.
Oreskes and Supran aren’t just boosting climate litigation with studies, conferences, and tweets. They’re also directly supported these climate lawsuits in the past by signing amicus briefs that have been filed to advocate on behalf of the municipalities suing energy companies for climate change.
It’s A Coordinated Effort
As soon as the paper was published, multiple news articles immediately published featuring the story, including individual interviews, further highlighting the coordinated effort by the entire climate litigation campaign.
The rollout of today’s paper from Oreskes and Supran once again shows that their work is more about a carefully designed PR and media strategy aimed at ExxonMobil than it is about addressing climate change. They’re only interested in pointing fingers.