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Tobacco Gun for Hire James Enstrom, Willie Soon and the Climate Deniers Attack on Merchants of Doubt

James Enstrom

This article was co-written by Dan Zegart, author of Civil Warriors, the legal siege on the tobacco industry.

A leaked email chain reported earlier this week on DeSmog shines a harsh light on the behind-the-scenes coordination between well-known climate deniers and fossil fuel funded spindoctors. 

But it turns out that there is much more to this story than just climate change, and we find ourselves once again reaching back into the rich history of scientists paid by tobacco companies to conduct research bringing into question the links between cigarette smoke and cancer. 

The October 2014 email discussion, led by infamous climate denier Fred Singerasks whether it would make sense to file a lawsuit to try and stop the release of the new feature length documentary, Merchants of Doubt – a film tracing the tactics used by Big Tobacco to spread misinformation and how those same tactics are now being used by those attacking climate change science and the 97% consensus

As an expert-for-hire who has taken money from both Big Tobacco and fossil fuel companies over the span of his career, S. Fred Singer is a major focal point in Merchants of Doubt.

But where the really interesting story lies, is in two of the recipients of the Singer email who share an uncannily similar history.

Merchants of Doubt Film Debuts, Textbook Denial Attack Campaign Led By Fred Singer Ensues

Merchants of Doubt, a new film from Food Inc. director Robert Kenner, hits the big screen nationwide this week and it is already making controversial headlines as the climate deniers go on the attack as predictably as possible. 

Merchants of Doubt zooms in on the anti-science campaign outlined in Naomi Oreskes' book of the same name, and has some pretty shocking and frank interviews with some of the more colorful and influential operatives in the climate denier movement.

Apparently the film sent such a wave of indigestion through the climate denial cabal that, back in October, S. Fred Singer and a small group of his chosen deniers and PR spindoctors discussed via email the opportunity to sue the film into oblivion. 

E & E revealed yesterday an email chain written by the grandfather of climate denial, Fred Singer, in which he seeks legal advice from the likes of Marc Morano, Anthony Watts, James Delingpole, Christopher Monckton, Tim Ball, Patrick MichaelsJudith Curry, Willie Soon and Joseph Bast, asking:

Harvard-Smithsonian Profited as Much as Willie Soon with Fossil Fuel Funding

Willie Soon Harvard Smithsonian

Both Harvard and the Smithsonian Institute are trying to shake off the controversy surrounding Willie Soon, but these esteemed organizations should not be let off the hook easily.

Earlier this week, documents revealed by the Guardian and New York Times provide irefutable evidence that climate denier Willie Soon and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophyics received more than $1 million in funding from fossil fuel companies to deliver scientific reports that called into question the scientific conclusion that climate change is the result of burning too much oil, coal and other carbon-emitting fuel sources.

Harvard quickly tried to distance themselves from the Soon scandal telling the Guardian that “Soon operated outside of the university.” This, despite the fact that Soon “carries a Harvard ID and uses a Harvard email address.”

The Smithsonian Institute also reacted quickly announcing that they have tasked their Inspector General to look into the ethical conduct of Dr. Soon. 

“The Smithsonian is greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon's failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research,” they said in a statement shortly after the scandal broke over the weekend. 

But who is going to probe the ethical conduct of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics?

After all, many of the documents include the organization's letterhead. Take for example this funding request to oil giant ExxonMobil to produce a paper on the understanding of solar variability and climate change:

2015 Might Be a Big Peak Year for Climate Change

While every year is crucial when it comes to reducing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases polluting our atmosphere, 2015 is looking to be a super year and a possible turning point in which a few big decisions could make all the difference.

Here are five big things to watch in 2015:

1. Paris UN Climate Conference

Let's start at the end of 2015, when global leaders are expected to show up in Paris, France, in early December to negotiate a new global agreement on global warming pollution reductions. A preview of what is to come was on display in Lima, Peru, in early December when environment ministers and their delegations cobbled together the draft of what will be negotiated in Paris. The major sticking points in the negotiations were the same as they have been for a while now.

Fracking Bans in Quebec and New York Should Give B.C. Premier Christy Clark Pause

New York Fracking Ban, Quebec

Two big blows to the natural gas industry have come in less than 24 hours, with both the province of Quebec and New York state effectively banning shale gas extraction over concerns with the process of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”). 

Fracking allows for the cheap extraction of natural gas from shale deposits that were previously inaccessible, and it is responsible for both the boom in natural gas production as well as the correlate controversy. 

Citing public health and environmental concerns, Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard announced yesterday that there would be no shale gas development in his province. The day prior Quebec's environmental review board released a report finding that there are “too many potential negative consequences to the environment and to society from extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits along the St. Lawrence River.”

Today New York State made a similar move imposing an outright ban on fracking.

Crisis Consultant Says Environmental Activists In It For The Money

randal simonetti

In a newsletter to clients titled “Defending Your Company Against an Activist Attack,” Randal Simonetti from the consulting firm EFP Rotenberg, opines that in order to successfully combat an attack by an environmental group you must, “first consider the driving motive that supports the attacker's existence.” 

According to Simonetti that driving motivation is money. “Funding is a primary driver of any activist organization's behaviour,” writes Simonetti.

To be sure, any non-profit organization must pay some attention to money to keep the lights on and pay decent(ish) wages. But as a former director at the environmental group Greenpeace, I can tell you that activists don't occupy a logging company's offices, or lie down in front of a coal train, or march in the streets of New York for money. They do it because they genuinely believe in standing up for their principles and what they believe is right for the human race and the planet. 

To counter these supposed money grubbing activists and their campaigns-for-dollars, Randal Simonetti suggests that companies under attack look to find other companies who “operate in a similar fashion” and point them out. I know my mom would probably scold Simonetti on this point and ask him, “If everyone else wants to jump off a bridge, does that mean you have to as well?”

Pointing out that others are just as bad as you, does not excuse your behaviour. Even my 8 year-old knows that.

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