The La Jolla Papers: It’s All Just a Big Coincidence—Part 1

Four years ago, two dozen nationally recognized environmental activists, academics and trial lawyers met in La Jolla, CA to explore “whether we might use the lessons from tobacco-related education, laws, and litigation to address climate change.” After that meeting, they published an extremely candid 36-page report that described what they discussed behind closed doors.

Following is the latest installment of highlights from that report, which we are calling The La Jolla Papers.

It’s All Just a Big Coincidence—Part 1

Despite having published a 36-page report that describes in great detail what they discussed during their two-day conference, the attendees of the 2012 La Jolla conference are going to great lengths to deny the contents of the report.

Consider this quote from Richard Heede, co-founder of the Climate Accountability Institute and one of the four organizers of the La Jolla conference when asked by if the 2012 conference “act[ed] as a guide for charges against ExxonMobil or for calls to use RICO in potential federal investigations.” He stated:

“That would be nice, but we just anticipated how things were going to evolve,” Heede said in a telephone interview. “We haven’t been in the background of any of these new developments.”

“We haven’t invented any of these attorney general actions, we haven’t been consulted by them,” Heede said. “These are things that come up in the natural marketplace of the risk that these oil and gas and coal companies have taken by presenting and funding climate denial groups.”

Really? That’s interesting. Because Peter Frumhoff, the director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and also one of the four organizers of the La Jolla conference, wrote a blog post entitled, “Scientists, Legal Scholars Brief State Prosecutors on Fossil Fuel Companies’ Climate Accountability” in which he boasted about briefing the state attorneys general about how to “hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their contributions to climate change,” which was the theme of the 2012 conference. He even mentioned working with Heede in the post.

“In 2015, CAI’s Richard Heede, Harvard University historian of science Naomi Oreskes, and I argued in a 2015 Climatic Change paper that leading fossil fuel companies have significant responsibilities for climate change, both because of their large contribution to the problem and because, knowing the serious risks of their products, they engaged in a campaign of climate disinformation to avoid policies and investments that might have stabilized or reduced emissions.”

Interestingly, that paper Frumhoff described is strikingly similar to a paper Heede discussed during the La Jolla conference. It’s also interesting to note that Heede and Frumhoff teamed up with Naomi Oreskes—who, too, was one of the four organizers of the La Jolla conference—to release this paper, just as the La Jolla Papers prophesied:

“Participants made commitments to continue the discussion and collaborate on a number of the efforts discussed at the meeting. In particular, several participants agreed to work together on some of the attribution work already under way, including efforts to help publicize attribution findings in a way that will be easy for the general public to understand, and build an advocacy component around those findings.” (Emphasis added.)

Coincidence? Not likely.