Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy

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"Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy"

Gavin Schmidt has done a wonderful job at RealClimate patiently explaining the context of the stolen emails. He’s made it perfectly clear that the claims of scientific malpractice are without foundation. He must be doing a really good job, because the Competitive Enterprise Institute intends to sue him.

That’s computer scientist Tim Lambert aka Deltoid explaining (here) the latest tactics the anti-scientific disinformers are pursuing to stifle real climate scientists from communicating with the public.  The CEI, of course, runs ad campaigns aimed at destroying the climate for centuries; generally spreads disinformation (see “Santer, Jones, and Schneider respond to CEI’s phony attack on the temperature record“) and embraces the efforts of other groups to sow confusion (see “Deniers go ape for Scopes climate trial“).

But CEI’s current tactics, which they proudly announce here, have become truly extemist in nature:

[CEI seeks documents] relating to the content, importance, or propriety of workday-hour posts or entries by GISS/NASA employee Gavin A. Schmidt on the weblog or “blog” RealClimate, which is owned by the advocacy Environmental Media Services and was started as an effort to defend the debunked “Hockey Stick” that is so central to the CRU files. RealClimate.org is implicated in the leaked files and expressly offered as a tool to be used “in any way you think would be helpful” to a certain advocacy campaign, including an assertion of Schmidt’s active involvement in, e.g., delaying and/or screening out unhelpful input by “skeptics” attempting to comment on claims made on the website.

This, and the related political activism engaged in, are inappropriate behavior for a taxpayer-funded employee, particularly on taxpayer time. These documents were requested in January 2007 and NASA/GISS have refused to date to comply with their legal obligation to produce responsive documents.

Lambert notes:

Yes they’re planning to sue Schmidt for the “inappropriate behavior” of moderating comments at RealClimate. Of course, the point of this vexatious suit isn’t to win — it’s to harass and distract Schmidt because he is being effective.

It’s not for nothing that I dubbed them the Completely Evil Institute.

I would add that essentially every factual assertion in the above excerpt from the piece by CEI Fellow Chris Horner is false.

The disinformers are obsessed with the Hockey Stick analysis, even though it is just the tiniest piece of our overall understanding of climate science, which is getting increasingly dire by the day (see Climate science statement from the Met Office, NERC and the Royal Society: “even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened”).

The ‘hockey stick’ was, in fact, essentially vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences (see NAS Report and RealClimate.org).  And more important than the fact that the original analysis was defensibly correct, is that the conclusions were correct [which could be true even if the analysis had flaws in it].  Is the planet now as hot (or hotter) than it has been in a millenium?  Try two millennia (see “Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years“).  See also “Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, ‘seminal’ study finds.”  That’s why climatologist and one-time darling of the contrarians Ken Caldeira said last month, “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”

RealClimate was not started as an effort to defend the Hockey Stick, but rather to “to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary” on climate science in general (see RC’s About page).  As for being “owned by the advocacy Environmental Media Services,” RealClimate explains patiently in its Disclaimer:

The contributors to this site do so in a personal capacity during their spare time and their posts do not represent the views of the organizations for which they work, nor the agencies which fund them. The contributors are solely responsible for the content of the site and receive no remuneration for their contributions.

RealClimate is not affiliated with any environmental organisations. Although our domain is being hosted by Environmental Media Services, and our initial press release was organised for us by Fenton Communications, neither organization was in any way involved in the initial planning for RealClimate, and have never had any editorial or other control over content. Neither Fenton nor EMS has ever paid any contributor to RealClimate.org any money for any purpose at any time. Neither do they pay us expenses, buy our lunch or contract us to do research. This information has always been made clear to anyone who asked.

CEI received over $2 million from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2005, but that is no doubt purely a coincidence.

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26 Responses to Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy

  1. Nick says:

    This isn’t just about making him ineffective, it’s also about making this all look like part of a broader conspiracy.

    Goodness, imagine what good could be done in the world if people with this much money stopped suing good people and actually put it to work helping.

  2. GreenPRGuy says:

    You have GOT to be kidding.

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    Nit: “sew confusion” s/b “sow confusion”.

    [JR: Darn you, voice dictation software!]

    I agree with the post, with Nick’s comment, and with Tim Lambert at Deltoid that this is harassment, meant to distract scientists like Gavin from his work (and sow confusion).

    Still, I can’t help but fantasize that Gavin would change hats for a while, countersue CEI (on what grounds?) and demand all their emails, phone records, funding sources, etc.

    Back in the real world, we have to keep at the long hard job of behaving well and convincing others to behave well. Let’s grow those wedges!

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Good and Necessary Idea

    I’m not talking about this CEI thing, of course.

    I’m talking about using the courts, justifiably and necessarily, to prompt progress.

    For example, we now have the IPCC documents, the letter from eighteen leading scientific organizations, and (yesterday) the statement by the Royal Society and etc. And, we have statements (from ExxonMobil) that were made over two years ago that say and suggest that ExxonMobil is a scientific organization and agrees with the science regarding climate change, more or less. And, certainly, there is a rich collection of public and private ads, correspondences, lobbying attempts, public statements, and so forth, on ExxonMobil’s part.

    It is time for someone — and MANY people and organizations — to sue ExxonMobil for about ten trillion dollars (with the meter still running up, every second) for its deceiving actions and real inactions in relation to the climate change problem. That amount is probably too small: Let’s just say twenty trillion dollars, or (instead) every penny that ExxonMobil and the violating executives have.

    I agree that it is time to use the courts, against those companies and organizations that are deceiving people, knowingly, in the face of the overwhelming science, the damages, and (often) an organization saying one thing, in one instance, and then something entirely different to another audience.

    The largest suit ever brought against a U.S. company should be brought against ExxonMobil (and some of its leaders) at this point. That is my view. If there is justice in the world, then she should show her resolute face clearly on this issue.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  5. This is classic PSYOPs military information warfare — to destroy and deny the foundation of information and culture.

    Now we must rely on the courts to calm things down. They have not done very well so far. Pity. It presages the information climate wars to come.

  6. EVNow says:

    Unless they get a thuggish judge, I’m sure suit will be dismissed as frivolous.

    We should setup a legal defence fund for Gavin if this comes to trial …

    BTW, Joe, I’m not sure what blogging s/w you use – but it is almost impossible to select a sentence from here and twitter it.

    [JR: I've heard that from a couple of folks, but I have no problem on either Firefox or IE. Try hitting the "Print" feature.]

  7. Greg N says:

    It’s all a CONSPIRACY!!!!! Teh evul scientists with their ray guns are heating up the planet to tax us!! The emails PROVE it!!!!! Thank God the CEI and Inhofe can see through their scam!!! Sue them, and sue anyone who is covering up the Roswell incident!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. gmo says:

    One of the last comments I noticed on my last look over at the RC threads on the hack was basically demanding to know if he was doing anything on RC when he was ‘on the clock’ for his US taxpayer salary-providers. Never thought it would turn into a frivolous lawsuit. I would take odds that he has already at this point in the year gone past a calendar year worth (50wks*40hr/wk) of legitimate ‘on the clock’ time. But apparently some people feel he should keep their schedule. I wonder if they would think it reasonable for him to ask for more money for when he works ‘overtime’?

    At first I thought it would be deliciously ironic if somehow this could result in the release of all the “screened” comments. I cannot imagine the garbage in there. Then I figured though that things like not passing through repeated ridiculous screeds about how there is no greenhouse effect would be cited as suppression.

  9. Chris Winter says:

    GreenPRGuy: My first reaction when I first saw the title of this post was identical to yours.

    My second was to guess that Christopher Horner was behind the lawsuit. I actually hope he proceeds with it. Yes, this would be a drain on Gavin’s time. But it may be the only way he (Horner) will learn the lesson that Anthony Watts has (presumably) already learned — that grievances, like scientific theories, must have some substance or they are worthless.

  10. George Darroch says:

    Not a single academic I know works 40 hour weeks. Well, apart from the ones who are working “part-time”.

    I would be very surprised if this wasn’t also true for Gavin Schmidt. But, it won’t stop the scum at the CEI, who are waging a war on scientists and science, and have been doing so for their entire existence.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Dis-gust-ing!

  12. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, you should clarify that the threat to sue is against the government, not Gavin personally. It will cost him nothing, and probably won’t even take up much of his time.

    Also, the primary subject of the promised lawsuits is Jim Hansen, not Gavin. A third GISS scientist, Reto Ruedy, is mentioned as well.

    I see that CEI has until 12/22 to actually file lawsuits pursuant to these notices. So to get their hoped-for effect on Copenhagen, they don’t have to file anything. We’ll see what they actually do on the 22nd, but if I had to guess I’d say another blustering press release is much more likely than legal papers.

    Timing is everything with these things. CEI was probably hoping to build on the CRU “scandal” of a few days ago, but now that’s fading away due to lack of content even as the news hole has been entirely occupied by Obama’s annmouncements. On the whole, these are sad days for denialists.

  13. pete best says:

    RC is king of the truely noble art of science. Its utterly facile to attempt ot sue any of them. Its a brilliant site, even the deniers would not deny that.

  14. George Ennis says:

    Wow.

    Just when you thought things could not get any worse they do. You guys must have difficulty getting out of bed somedays, when faced with all this never endum idiocy coming from paid hacks for the oil companies.

    The sadder part is that the level of scientific ignorance in the general population is so high that discussion of complex policy issues related to climate change become difficult if not impossible; hence providing a cover for a campaign of disinformation.

    Thanks for all the great work.

  15. Dano says:

    Yup. I’m with Bloom. All smoke, no fire. Except for some pants.

    Best,

    D

  16. Bill P says:

    The people CEI should be suing is their own attorneys for incompetence for allowing them to proceed with what has to be one of the most frivolous legal actions of all time. It is obvious that any website can moderate their own privately-owed discussion forums and comments any way they want and there’s nothing the courts can do about it. Many states now provide severe penalties and fines against those who file frivolous lawsuits and which let the judge award damages to the parties who was victimized by such tactics.

    After the suit is against them is dismissed as frivolous, what RealClimate should do then is launch a counter-suit for harassment and possibly attempted restraint of trade. That’s an action which would have real teeth in a court of law and could possibly end up putting CEI out of business.

  17. Hugh McLean says:

    CEI better tread carefully: the 2005 Kitzmiller trial (re creationist attempts to promote intelligent design as a scientific alternative to evolution theory in Dover Pennsylvania classrooms) shows how devastating formal rules of evidence and rights of cross-examination can be when ideology faces off against science in the court-room. (Full details on the trial can be found here.)

    Forget CEI – are there any lawyers out there who think the definition of defamation could be applied to denialist pronouncements on the major findings of climate-change science, or the integrity of climate scientists?

  18. Timothy Chase says:

    Regarding the above comment of mine…

    We can see that the organizations funded by the fossil fuel industry are getting desperate. They are now going after individual scientists rather than just the science. We have the hacking of email accounts for climatologists belonging to Hadley CRU for the purpose of a smear campaign, and within days of this we have the declaration that they will be taking legal action against climatologist Gavin Schmidt. Even during the heyday of their disinformation campaign this is something which the tobacco industry never got into.

    I believe pro climate science blogs and organizations can use these attacks as a means of illuminating the campaign of disinformation against climate science, including the campaign’s funding and ideological motives. When denialist attack the science that is still somewhat abstract and impersonal, but when they go after individuals this puts a human face on those that they are attacking. For too long we have been on the defensive. Now we can bring the battle to them.

    And what if they quit the personal attacks upon the climatologists? I would suggest that we continue illuminating the source of funding, the economic interests and the extremist politics. However, we should also realize that what is done along these lines will be somewhat less effective — which still gives Exxon and the foundations considerable incentive to bring to an end the personal attacks.

  19. Timothy Chase says:

    Sorry — the above comment went through but not the comment of mine that preceded it. I will do it in parts below.

  20. Timothy Chase says:

    Looking at the documented major funders of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, we have:

    1. Exxon to the tune of $2,770,000 from 1998 to 2005 (ExxonSecrets);
    2. Scaife Foundations $2,650,000 (Allegheny $0, Carthage $60,000, Scaife Family $350,000 and the Sarah Scaife Foundation $2,240,000) from 1985 to 2007 (Media Matters Transparency);
    3. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $900,040 from 1986-2007 (Media Matters Transparency);
    4. Koch Foundations $616,420 (Charles G. Koch Foundation $15,000, David H. Koch Foundation $265,000, Claude R. Lambe Foundation $336,420) from 1986-2004 (Media Matters Transparency);
    5. Coors foundations $130,000 (Castle Rock $130,000) from 2000-2006 (Media Matters Transparency)

    Documented Total for Exxon, Scaife, Bradley, Koch, Coors from 1985-2007: $7,066,460
    2000-2007: $4,196,420

    Sources of wealth:

    1. Exxon – oil I believe;
    2. Scaife – Mellon industrial, oil, uranium and banking (SourceWatch);
    3. Bradley – electronics (SourceWatch);
    4. Koch – oil trading and refining, chemicals, process and pollution control equipment, meat and dairy, etc. (SourceWatch);
    5. Coors – Beer, apparently. Some banking.

    Politics:

    1. Exxon ?
    2. Scaife – religious right, libertarianism;
    3. Bradley – libertarian;
    4. Koch – religious right, libertarianism;
    5. Coors – religious right, libertarianism.

  21. Timothy Chase says:

    Total grants from the above foundations to organizations that are also funded by Exxon:

    Aggregated Grants of Scaife Foundations
    Includes: Scaife Family Foundation, Carthage Foundation, Allegheny Foundation and Sara Scaife Foundation
    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/index.php?mapid=1468

    For the period from 1985 to 2006…

    1. A Total of 41 organizations found in the Exxon Secrets database where each organization received at least $100,000.

    2. Number of individuals belonging to multiple organizations according to the database? 148.

    3. The total grants for all causes by Scaife Foundations for this period was $471,475,733 according to Media Transparency. Looking only at organizations that received $100,000 or more over this period that were in the Exxon Secrets database I have $121,418,540. As such, while only 41 of the 434 organizations that received total grant amounts of at least $100,000 were in the Exxon Secrets database, thus constituting only 9.45% of the 434 organizations, 27.75% of the grant money went to organizations that are in the Exxon Secrets database.

    *

    The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc.
    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/index.php?mapid=1469

    27 organizations on the Exxon list have received $100,000 or more from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation from 1985-2005, with 95 individuals belonging to 2 or more of those organizations. The grand total given by the foundation to these 27 organizations for this period is $64,707,196.

    *

    Aggregated Grants from the Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch, and Claude R. Lambe Foundations
    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/index.php?mapid=1467

    20 organizations on the Exxon list for have received $100,000 or more from the Koch/Lambe foundations from 1986-2004. Total number of individuals belonging to 2 or more of these organizations in the Exxon Secrets DB is 77. Total given: $36,815,538.

    *

    Coors Castle Rock Foundation
    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/index.php?mapid=1466

    18 organizations on the Exxon list for having received $100,000 or more from the Castle Rock foundation from 1995-2006. A total of 69 individuals on the Exxon list that belong to 2 or more of these organizations. Total given $7,068,760.

    *

    The total funding from these sets of foundations going to organizations that also receive funding from Exxon and have been identified as part of the Exxon disinformation network: $230,010,034

  22. Timothy Chase says:

    PS

    In the above posts (the last of which has yet to appear, but points out that the four sets of foundations (Scaife, Bradley, Koch and Coors) have given over $230,000,000 to disinformation organizations that attack climate science which are also funded by Exxon. I have lists of the organizations themselves and of the amounts that they received from each set of foundations, links to the webpages (Media Matters “Transparency,” Exxon Secrets, SourceWatch) for virtually all of the information, if needed, although most of it is easy enough to look up or collate. And of course much more is easily available on the web.

    timothychase at g mail dot com

  23. Dr. Smith says:

    Can U say Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation? I hope Gavin Schmidt’s lawyers can. In most states, that would mean big money in a countersuit.

  24. enough says:

    Great site you have here. I can see you found the Green Peace Exon site. To bad none of you understand the real significance of finding collusion between CRU, GISS, NOAA, NSF, DOE, the press and on and on to fake scientific data in the name of a political agenda……….

  25. Mark Green says:

    When I read “Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy”, I asked “Gavin, right?” Sure enough.

    Not that he isn’t well within his rights. The guy just happens to be the most restrictive moderator at RC.