Puerto Rico Greens Launch a RICO Lawsuit Against Big Oil

by Eric Worrall | Dec. 21, 2022

Big oil is accused of conspiring to deceive the public into thinking the current warming might not have been caused by Anthropogenic CO2.

Big oil is behind conspiracy to deceive public, first climate racketeering lawsuit says

Lawyer in a civil lawsuit launched by towns in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico describes why it is using laws used to target mob bosses

Nina Lakhani @ninalakhaniTue 20 Dec 2022 20.00 AEDT

The same racketeering legislation used to bring down mob bosses, motorcycle gangs, football executives and international fraudsters is to be tested against oil and coal companies who are accused of conspiring to deceive the public over the climate crisis.

In an ambitious move, an attempt will be made to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for “decades of deception” in a lawsuit being brought by communities in Puerto Rico that were devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“Puerto Rico is one of the most affected places by climate change in the world. It is so precariously positioned – they get hit on all fronts with hurricanes, storm surge, heat, coral bleaching – it’s the perfect place for this climate litigation,” said Melissa Sims, senior counsel for the plaintiffs’ law firm Milberg.

Now, the first-ever climate change Rico case alleges that international oil and coal companies, their trade associations, and a network of paid thinktanks, scientists and other operatives conspired to deceive the public – specifically residents of Puerto Rico – about the direct link between their greenhouse gas-emitting products and climate change.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/20/big-oil-is-behind-conspiracy-to-deceive-public-first-climate-racketeering-lawsuit-says

Where do accusations of big oil conspiracy come from?

In 1982, Exxon produced an internal summary document of other people’s research. Since the document became public knowledge, climate activists have held up the internal memo as evidence they “concealed” their knowledge of climate change.

But the document contains rather large caveats, and like I said, was based on public domain research.

Judge for yourself.

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Consider the “warning” at the bottom of Page 4, continuing to the top of Page 5:

“There is currently no unambiguous evidence that the earth is warming. If the earth is on a warming trend, we’re not likely to detect it before 1995. This is about the earliest projection of when the temperature might rise the 0.5° needed to get beyond the range of normal temperature fluctuations. On the other hand, if climate modelling uncertainties have exaggerated the temperature rise, it is possible that a carbon dioxide induced “greenhouse effect” may not be detected until 2020 at the earliest”.

Imagine you were an Exxon executive in 1982 reading a statement like that. Would you have a) hit the panic button and explained to shareholders you were going to close the company, or b) regarded Glaser 1982 as an interesting scientific document, of little importance to current operations?

At the bottom of Page 5, Glaser 1982 provides advice on the appropriate response;

Overall, the current outlook suggests potentially serious climate problems are not likely to occur until the late 21st century, or perhaps beyond at projected energy demand rates. This should provide time to remove uncertainties regarding the overall carbon cycle and the contribution of fossil fuel combustion as well as the roles of the oceans as a reservoir for both heat and carbon dioxide. It should also allow time to better define the effect of carbon dioxide and other infrared absorbing gases on surface climate. Making significant changes in energy consumption patterns now to deal with this potential problem amid all the scientific uncertainties would be premature in view of the severe impact such moves could have on the world’s economies and societies.

The Guardian article references a 1998 “conspiracy” to deceive the public, but doesn’t provide details of exactly which document they are talking about. It might be one of the papers published by Naomi Oreskes, a big list of advertisements published by oil companies which cast doubt on claims CO2 drives global warming.

But do these documents and advertisements really represent a conspiracy to commit fraud? Or are they just a constitutionally protected expression of free speech?

Given the current warm period is similar to the Medieval Warm Period, Roman Warm Period and Minoan Warming, and the current warming started around 1850, well before anthropogenic CO2 could have had a significant influence, there is plenty of room to cast doubt on claims that the current warm period was caused by anthropogenic CO2. For what it is worth, I believe anthropogenic CO2 likely does have a warming effect, and probably contributed to the current warm period – but that is not the same as believing the current warm period was entirely caused by CO2.

Even if you believe that CO2 is the main driver of modern warming, do you really believe it should be a crime to disagree?

Another glaring absurdity in the Puerto Rican lawsuit is they still want big oil to continue supplying their evil product. As far as I can tell, there is no demand that big oil cut off the supply of petroleum products to Puerto Rico to protect the global climate.

Such lawsuits deserve our derision, not our respect.