By June 14, 2016 Read More →

Key figure in RICO Climate Campaign admits ‘secret’ documents were ‘widely peer-reviewed’ and publicly available

Newly released emails showed Union of Concerned Scientists has long been working with New York Attorneys General’ office to prosecute climate dissent


Exxon Protest Photo: Greenpeace.

By Katie Brown, PhD, Energy In Depth

The story underlying the RICO climate campaign is rapidly unravelling.

Ever since InsideClimate News (ICN) released its Exxon series last September, the organization has pushed the narrative that the documents its reporters “uncovered” from scientists in the company were “top secret” and totally unavailable to the public.

Aside from the fact that reporters were able to find all these documents precisely because they were widely available in libraries and online, now key figures in the RICO climate campaign are finally admitting these documents really weren’t so secret after all.

Michael MacCracken, who has been involved in the this campaign since day one, just stated in a blog post that one of the documents in question, written by Exxon scientist Dr. Brian Flannery, was widely available to the public. As he put it,

In DOE’s major, widely peer-reviewed 1985 climate change assessment, Exxon’s leading climate change scientist for the past several decades, Dr. Brian Flannery, co-authored the chapter on projecting climate change. His chapter concluded that “climate models currently available, when run with standard scenarios of fossil fuel CO2 emissions, indicate a global warming of the order of 1ºC by the year 2000, relative to the year 1850, and an additional 2º-5ºC warming over the next century.” That projection was made three decades ago and is still the case today.”

This revelation comes just after ICN reporter Neela Banerjee again tried to repeat the ICN mantra of “secret” documents last week.  As she said in an interview with the National Press Foundation,

“There’s probably a couple thousand pages and we have digitized maybe two or three dozen so far as part of stories. And we are very cognizant of the fact that people took risks in sharing these with us and so we don’t really talk about how we got the documents because we believe in protecting our sources.”

It’s pretty safe to say that something the Department of Energy publishes that was “widely peer-reviewed” was not locked away in some file cabinet with the key thrown away.

The fact that this admission comes from MacCracken is especially interesting because in that same interview, Banerjee also claimed that MacCracken was the one who tipped ICN off on these oh-so-secret documents in the first place.  As she said, “The first break came, as I said, when my colleague Dave Hasemyer spoke to Mike MacCracken, this long-time government scientist, who told us about Exxon.”

Walking back connection to Union of Concerned Scientists?

What’s also very telling about MacCracken’s blog post is that after Energy In Depth revealed that he had listed his affiliation with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) at an activist tele-briefing during the Exxon shareholders’ meeting a few weeks back (which was also hosted by UCS), he now seems to be walking that affiliation back.


MacCracken’s blog post, which was posted on the UCS website, states,

“I attended ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas, Texas, at the invitation of UCS and Mercy Investment Services.”

MacCracken goes on to explain that he had addressed Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson during the public comment period, along with Kathy Mulvey of UCS, who served as MacCraken’s sidekick for the day. At the public comment session itself, MacCracken did not disclose the UCS affiliation:

“My name is Michael MacCracken. I’ve been a climate change scientist for nearly 50 years and I’m here on behalf of Mercy Investment Services speaking with respect to the items raised in proposals 11 and 12.” [MacCracken speaks at the 1:52:30 mark]

We are now left to question what MacCracken’s exact affiliation with UCS is. Does he work for UCS? Is he speaking on behalf of UCS?

As MacCracken struggles to keep his story straight, his apparently close affiliation with UCS raises new questions about the organization’s already prominent role in the entire effort.

As Energy In Depth has pointed out before, MacCracken serves on the board of Climate Accountability Institute and that organization, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, held that 2012 workshop in La Jolla, Calif. at which activists brainstormed ways to launch racketeering investigations. MacCracken attended and spoke at that conference.

Newly released emails have also shown that the Union of Concerned Scientists has been working with the New York Attorneys General’ office to prosecute climate dissent long before the ICN stories ever hit.  Indeed, it was UCS’s Peter Frumhoff that the New York Attorney General’s office invited to brief the other “climate AGs” immediately preceding the March 29 press conference.

If MacCracken is officially with UCS that means UCS was the group that told ICN to focus its news series on Exxon, while it simultaneously worked behind the scenes to lobby state AGs into launching investigations.

With all this collusion and coordination coming to light, it’s no wonder MacCracken doesn’t want his close ties to UCS out in the open.

 at EnergyInDepth, ,

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