Why Would Naomi Oreskes Be On Retainer With Any Law Firm?

Reposted from The Gelbspan Files

Just askin’, another in my series of posts asking questions that not only the inquisitive public and unbiased reporters should be asking, but also the law firms working for the defendant energy companies in the current 25 “Exxon Knew”-style global warming damages cost recovery lawsuits. Hat tip to Charles Rotter at WUWT for alerting me to Energy in Depth’s 5/13/21 report, “Bombshell: Naomi Oreskes On Retainer With Plaintiffs’ Law Firm.” Charles further points out that a same-day paper authored by Oreskes and co-researcher Geoffrey Supran (that Supran) had the note at the bottom, “The authors have no other relevant financial ties and declare no competing interests.”

Being on retainer with a law firm handling no less than 15 major global warming lawsuits is not a relevant financial tie, or at least minimally a competing interest, a.k.a. a conflict of interest??

But the problems and the questions don’t end there for Oreskes, whose major claim to fame is her “Merchants of Doubt” book, which supposedly exposed skeptic climate scientists as ‘contrarians holding corrupted viewpoints’ contradicting the otherwise ‘settled science’ of man-caused global warming.

This news from Energy in Depth of Oreskes being on retainer with Sher Edling, the same law firm that’s handling 15 “Exxon Knew”-style global warming lawsuits which essentially accuses ‘Big Oil’ of paying skeptic climate scientists to spread ‘Big Oil’-approved disinformation, needs a bit of an explanation first. Oreskes disclosed that relationship in a sworn October 2020 deposition in connection with the Michael Mann v National Review lawsuit. Dr Mann ultimately lost this angle of his larger defamation suit against National Review and pundit Mark Steyn, and Steyn tells more about his angle here. Apparently, Dr Mann asked her to be an expert witness for him in his lawsuit, despite having hardly any more actual climate science expertise than teenager Greta Thunberg. Dr Mann mentioned Oreskes’ material about the irrelevant non-science details concerning skeptic climate scientists in one of his own books; maybe he felt she owed him the favor of being his expert witness here, a question worth asking somewhere down the line.

The direct association with Sher Edling is not the only revelation about law firms within her deposition. She disclosed (PDF file page 92, print pages 22-24) that she had also been on retainer (1) at some earlier unspecified time with Matt Pawa’s law firm. She mentioned his name first (2) before the lawyer questioning her did, then gave a rather uncertain answer on both whether she had met him (3) before the 2012 La Jolla workshop (that she had conceived), and regarding what potential case (4) he had put her on retainer for “a few years ago.”

To refresh everyone’s memory, this is that Matt ‘the legal brains behind global warming lawsuits’ Pawa, of the now-dismissed 2008 Kivalina v Exxon global warming lawsuit that had the same enslavement to a pair of worthless, never-implemented ‘industry memo sets’ that the 15 Sher Edling boilerplate copy lawsuits are enslaved to, e.g. Honolulu v Sunoco.

Questions are, in reverse order of the numbered items in the above deposition screencapture:

4) Pawa approached her when, to consult with him on what case, regarding what information? Did he consult her for his twin September 2017 Oakland / San Francisco filings, both which are enslaved to the worthless “victory will be achieved” memo set (Oakland’s paragraph here / San Francisco’s here) as evidence of an ‘industry execs / skeptic climate scientists’ conspiracy to spread disinformation? San Francisco‘s citation source for that memo set is no less than identical to Sher Edling’s boilerplate lawsuit filings, e.g. Annapolis v BP, where that innocuous-looking citation source weblink is directly traceable to a Greenpeace file upload done by Kert Davies. Coincidence?

3) Oreskes met Pawa before her 2012 La Jolla conference where and for what reason? And who initiated this meeting or meetings? Will those answers possibly turn up in the results of Exxon’s demands that she turn over her correspondences with Pawa?

2) The lawyer questioned Oreskes about page 13 of her La Jolla workshop writeup – again, a workshop that she conceived (she’s now rather forcefully distancing herself from that label) and by default would be the leader of – but she claims not to remember a significant discussion point about Michael Mann’s libel suit efforts. And yet, she appears in the writeup on that same page referencing old Western Fuels Association “Information Council for the Environment” public relations material, of which that same material is also seen in Sher Edling’s boilerplate lawsuit filings, e.g. Baltimore v BP. Will she claim she doesn’t remember that, either?

1) “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.” Believe?? How is it plausible that she would not have a crystal clear memory from a “a few years ago” about a lawyer having no other claim to fame beyond his leading a major legal action against Exxon on global warming damages asking her to be on retainer for, while also apparently having no clue why he’d be asking her to be on retainer in the first place?

Meanwhile, there’s all the questions that arise out of her disclosure of being on retainer with Sher Edling. On the same day of Energy in Depth’s bombshell report about this, CNN reported the news of her latest study of Exxon’s ‘disinformation,’ “Exxon uses Big Tobacco’s playbook to downplay the climate crisis, Harvard study finds” while specifically noting,

The company clalimed [sic] that 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 said she was paid for three and a half hours of work to review the historical accuracy of material for a legal brief by the law firm at issue and is not on retainer.

Ok, which is it? She was on retainer with Sher Edling last October, but isn’t any more? Or did she just give CNN disinformation about her current relationship with Sher Edling? Or is she so thoroughly confused that she thought CNN was referring to her ‘Friend of the Court’ filings for the California and Baltimore lawsuits that are being handled by other law firms of which Exxon is not named as a defendant in each?

Whatever the situation is, she really did not want to elaborate on it back in October.

What possible issues could she have discussed with Sher Edling that aren’t already on the public record among all her publications and videos that a moderately-paid law firm intern couldn’t readily find, though? Since Sher Edling has included references to a “Richard Lawson” memo (which is otherwise pointless in proving industry-led disinformation campaigns exist) in its latest Arundel filing that dates all the way back to their initial California 2017 filings, was the citation source in her 2010 book chapter contribution so obscure that she needed to point it out in person to them?

Since the Sher Edling boilerplate copy filings correctly name the small 1991 public relations campaign undertaken by the Western Fuels Association as the “Information Council for the Environment,” e.g. as seen in Honolulu v Sunoco, is it possible that they might reconsider the wisdom of keeping Oreskes on retainer, as the result of her getting the name wrong and misconstruing what was intended from that incorrect title, which was part of the unsolicited / never implemented “reposition global warming” proposal memos?

A specific example that I have documented in my work was a group called ICE, the Informed Citizens for the Environment. … that title would make you think that this was a grassroots business group … that they were concerned about the environment … but that wasn’t true.

What it really was was a front group, a front group for the Western Fuels Association …

The top officials for the short-lived ICE campaign dispute her characterization. But the strange thing here is that within Oreskes aforementioned 2010 book chapter 5 contribution (full, non-word searchable PDF file here) to the ‘obscure’ “How Well do Facts Travel?” book, she demonstrates that she knows full well that the “Information Council for the Environment” name was the only name the PR campaign operated under.

What explains her newer narrative, seen not only in this Mann v National Review deposition, but also in her October 2019 “Prepared Written Testimony” that she submitted for her U.S. House hearing appearance? As I detailed at length in my blog post about her appearance there, her switch on the ICE name didn’t add anything to explaining the existence of ‘industry-orchestrated disinformation campaigns,’ it only opened up a Pandora’s box for more questions on where she got her ‘leaked memos’ information, and by default, where the actual disinformation is apparently found within the global warming issue.

The administrators of the late Dr S Fred Singer’s Science and Public Policy organization had a laugh at Oreskes’ expense in their weekly newsletter concerning the revelation of her association with Sher Edling — “Will they teach her the meaning of evidence?

Question is, does the Sher Edling law firm need to be taught what the meaning of viable evidence is?

The bigger question is, why would there be any necessity for Naomi Oreskes to be on retainer with any law firm, when so much of her work and viewpoints is already out in the public domain, such that a lawsuit filing could simply be loaded with her declarations and footnotes to her papers, books, and video presentations. Is she really needed to explain in person what her opinion is about a ‘scientific consensus,’ or what she interprets to be ‘nefarious industry-led disinformation efforts’? Or is it plausible that these “Exxon Knew” global warming lawsuits are little more than an outgrowth of the 2012 La Jolla workshop that she – again – was the ‘brains behind’, in which she was offering directions — plural — for lawsuits to follow?

Is it no surprise that what was conceived in a 2012 workshop pondering ‘if leaked memos exposed the tobacco industry’s corrupt trade associations and front groups, then it may do the same for the fossil fuel industry‘ has ended up in current global warming lawsuits, e.g. Sher Edling’s D.C. v Exxon filing, which relies on leaked memos to support its accusation?

Maybe her old correspondences can reveal that answer. Oops, her emails prior to 2013 have vanished.

Oh, really? Isn’t that convenient? The scores of people she emailed on these matters (including the attendees at the 2012 La Jolla workshop) don’t have email server systems that preserved her correspondences? She never used private email accounts to communicate with folks whose goal was to stop global warming vial lawsuits that employ character assassination tactics against skeptic climate scientists?

Just askin’. When the defendant energy companies’ law firms start that kind of probing, they may see how Oreskes’ errant and inconsistent narratives are a gift on a silver platter pointing to where even more damaging self-inflicted problems of hers can be found. Oreskes’ problems wouldn’t likely be seen as gifts to mainstream media investigative reporters, but it might end up looking like too much blood in the water to ignore, as it relates to so many people – politicians, enviros, and journalists – who never questioned anything about the ‘Big Coal & Oil execs colluding with crooked skeptics‘ accusation.
Many other troubling items were revealed in Oreskes’ deposition statements. The next blog post here at GelbspanFiles will concern another of her errant February 2021 revelations elsewhere, which is now one increment more hypocritical in light of one of her deposition statements.

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Ed Zuiderwijk
May 25, 2021 11:27 pm

I wonder if her retainers are allowed under the terms of her position at Harvard. In any case someone tell Harvard that her escapades do not embellish Harvard ‘s reputation in general.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
May 25, 2021 11:48 pm

How the heck did this bleep go to Harvard?

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
May 25, 2021 11:48 pm

Traditional Academic freedom certainly allows such arrangements to be expert witness testimony for academics. Academics only are subject to institutional censure if, like Peter Ridd, the academic runs afoul of today’s Orwellian Cancel Culture shape shifting dogma.

andy in epsom
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 26, 2021 3:08 am

But surely this is a possible opportunity. Any expert witness can be challenged and have to prove the grounds for being an expert and this must be easy to show that there is just a scarecrow with no knowledge.

Richard Page
Reply to  andy in epsom
May 26, 2021 5:15 am

Possible to show? Yes. Easy? Hmm just how many people has she conned into believing her smears and misinformation? It would now take a concerted effort to dismantle her webs of deception but it needs to be done.

Reply to  andy in epsom
May 26, 2021 5:00 pm

Certainly an effective scarecrow.
Might even keep the farmers out of the fields.

Brooks H Hurd
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
May 26, 2021 8:00 am

Expert witness testimony would certainly be ligit, but being on retainer and then denying it should raise huge conflict of interest issues.

Joel O’Bryan
May 25, 2021 11:57 pm

I had to take Ethics in Science course several decades ago because of so many academic scandals in research. That’s a NIH required course because public monies funded the research and principal investigators I worked for as a grad student then a post doc.
I can’t imagine Oreskes gets any public funding grant today to support her full university paycheck though with her lies and shady dealings with lawfare firms. Likely She has to fund her “work” in her position with fundings from ambulance chasers.

Matthew Siekierski
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 26, 2021 3:40 am

You’re kidding, right? With the entrenched ecowarriors in government and people of the same mindset as The Squad, fully in support of the Green New Deal, along with like-minded private donors, she’s bound to get grants and private donations directed to the school.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 26, 2021 5:57 am

Just think where you could be now if you’d avoided that Ethics class and invested your time in Climate Science?

Reply to  Spetzer86
May 26, 2021 10:22 am

I had an ‘environmental engineering’ course that was a time (wasted) investment. More than 60% of the course time was ethics discussion (a paper a week was turned in discussing some ethical conundrum of choice; to be reviewed and returned with comments by the prof’s wife).

Subsequent to the professor bragging about himself and his son, discussing how front yard landscaping is a terrible thing, and the all the overall ethics discussions (maybe implemented by a bored wife), there was less than 30% of class time spent on relevant material.

Prof David B?…. I honestly can’t remember his last name …. A very poor investment.

May 26, 2021 12:12 am

Is it the goal to actually win the lawsuit?
Just askin’.

The basic concept of Marxism is for the Marxist to gain power by convincing the public that they are saving the victim by fighting the perpetrator.

Their predicament is that the public ( with their SUVs, flights to BAli, heating and air cons.) are just as much to blame for CO 2 emissions as the oil companies.

They must continue to show they are fighting a bad bad guy, whether they win or not.

But you and I might also ask – who’s paying for this?

I would be personally saddened if people with good intentions donated money for these BS lawsuits when the money could be used for real projects which could actually improve the planet.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Waza
May 26, 2021 12:17 am

Oreskes is at this point just digging for gold the only way she knows how. Truth be damned.

Michael in Dublin
May 26, 2021 1:18 am

When a person keeps telling and having to change their lies they sooner or later actually trip themselves up.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
May 26, 2021 5:02 am

This is where the selective memory loss ploy comes in handy. Particularly effective when combined with a conveniently casual attitude towards keeping written records.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  DaveS
May 26, 2021 6:20 am

c.f. James Comey, Hillary Clinton

Russell Cook
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
May 26, 2021 10:01 am

And that is why I describe her as a gift on a silver platter to those who want to pursue legal action against her. One thing that she trips herself up with is her inability — ironically as a historian — to correctly place particular events on her own personal timeline. In a series of my blog posts at GelbspanFiles, I detail how the ‘alert’ to her of who Dr S Fred Singer was requires time travel in order for it to have happened the way she describes it. In addition to that, Texas Rep Chip Roy tripped her up at an Oct 2019 U.S. House hearing on what point in time she thought she tweeted about Exxon (1:49:47 point here, more on that entire hearing situation here). And in my upcoming blog post at GelbspanFiles, I’ll show how she couldn’t put a correct date on a so-called “email attack” against her by Dr Singer relative to when her Merchants of Doubt documentary movie premiered, despite the proper date of when Dr Singer actually expressed concern on what might be said in her then-upcoming movie.

oebele bruinsma
May 26, 2021 6:26 am

“Why Would Naomi Oreskes Be On Retainer With Any Law Firm?” Why not, Business is Business.
Pun intended

May 26, 2021 7:58 am

“I was presumably there”

I think there’s more weasel words in those 4 statements than in a year’s worth of politician’s campaigning.

May 26, 2021 10:07 am


For a second there, I was afraid I’d see a picture of Naomi Oreskes when I clicked to read the full article.

👍 👍 ctm. You heard our prayers.

Nicholas Harding
May 26, 2021 10:32 am

Does anyone have the link to her “expert” opinion in Mann v. National Review? Hard to see how the jury needs an expert opinion in a defamation case unless it is an opinion on lost income or other economic damages. Moreover, it is hard to believe that she thought less of Mann after the article than she did before the article.

Russell Cook
Reply to  Nicholas Harding
May 26, 2021 7:56 pm

In the not especially user-friendly PDF file for all the deposition stuff, which also includes multiple pages of Oreskes CV, go down to PDF page 5, which is the beginning of her 25 page “expert opinion” given to benefit Michael Mann’s defamation case.

Nicholas Harding
Reply to  Russell Cook
May 27, 2021 7:48 am

Thanks; this will be some fun reading!

Russell Cook
Reply to  Nicholas Harding
May 27, 2021 10:25 am

No problem. I only did a quick skim of it myself, the slog through the nonword-searchable deposition took up most of my time. But I will have to re-read it more carefully since I noticed she went on a tangent about “attacks.” She’s fixated on comparing her ‘attack’ victimhood to Dr Ben Santer’s (his infamous IPCC Chapter 8 alteration), neither of which constitute real attacks. I previously covered that here, but that’s worthy of a followup blog post since within her deposition answers (PDF pgs 158-159 / print pgs 45-51) she twists herself into pretzel shapes trying to define what an “attack” is.

Caligula Jones
May 26, 2021 11:22 am

She would not be the first person who considers themselves a “public intellectual” and media darling who has had to swear in court…and see just how little either of those means in a court of law when you have to actually try to tell the truth on pain of contempt of court or perjury.

Doctors aren’t usually very good at it, either.

Ego…it is a thing.

May 26, 2021 12:41 pm

Answer: Bloomberg money

Stephen Philbrick
May 27, 2021 2:09 pm

I am not remotely a fan of Naomi Oreskes, but I do want to offer some information regarding one of the minor points – is she on retainer or not.

I am not a lawyer, but I’ve been involved in multiple lawsuits as both a fact witness and expert witness. In the case of expert witness work, we typically billed in arrears, at the end of the month after the work has been performed. Had we asked for advance payment we would have been on retainer. However, whether one is on retainer or bills in arrears, we typically had to sign an agreement with the law firm covering confidentiality of work product. I offer the possibility that Naomi Oreskes was required to sign a confidentiality agreement before the work was completed, and she may have thought of this as being on retainer. It is possible she should have testified that she had a contractual agreement with the law firm which dealt with confidentiality, but it may not have strictly been a retainer agreement. If my supposition is correct, she misspoke when she said she was on retainer, but this turns out to be a minor point. It is quite fair to question whether her arrangement with this law firm creates a conflict of interest and/or a relevant financial tie, but that would be true whether she were paid in advance of her work or after-the-fact.

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