California cities suing energy companies for the risks of climate change have quietly admitted that at least some of the allegations in their original filings were not aligned with the evidence they cited. The admission will almost certainly raise additional doubts about the plaintiffs’ case, which has come under increased scrutiny after a series of embarrassing missteps.
The cities of Oakland and San Francisco filed amended complaints this week after a disastrous appearance in federal court on March 21. The new filing tones down a section about the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), an entity that was active in the 1990s and which the plaintiffs have used as evidence of an industry conspiracy to suppress climate science.
The original complaint alleged that “an internal GCC presentation stated that a doubling of carbon dioxide levels over pre-industrial concentrations would occur by 2100 and cause ‘an average rate of warming [that] would probably be greater than any seen in the past 10,000 years.’”
But as Energy In Depth first revealed last month, the presentation – dated 1996 – was merely a summary of what the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had concluded a year earlier. The cities’ amended filing now clarifies that the GCC presentation “summarized findings from the 1995 IPCC Second Assessment report,” and was merely assessing the impacts of “the projected temperature change” by 2100.
During the so-called “climate tutorial” last month, Judge William Alsup was “fiercely interrogating” the plaintiffs’ presentation, according to one writer who followed the proceedings.
But it was at the end of the hearing when Judge Alsup dropped a bombshell: he pointed out how the plaintiffs had suggested the defendants were involved in a conspiracy, but that theory was based in part on a mischaracterization of the GCC presentation. As a result, Judge Alsup flatly dismissed the notion of a conspiracy, which has formed a core part of climate activists’ broader litigation strategy.
The municipalities suing energy companies for damages from climate change have faced strong headwinds in recent weeks.
In addition to Judge Alsup’s public rebuke, Energy In Depth revealed this week that the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP – which is representing Oakland and San Francisco – is using a dubious interpretation of sea level data. Hagens Berman claims in an advertisement that sea levels in California will rise by 10 feet, but the research they cite called such a scenario “extreme” and “scientifically premature.”
The Daily Caller reported that the Oakland and San Francisco complaints rely on the same sea level claim as what’s in Hagens Berman’s advertisement.
The plaintiffs have also been caught telling their potential investors that they are “unable to predict” the risks from climate change, even as they seek billions of dollars in damages for those same risks.
A recently resurfaced video may provide an explanation for the disarray. An environmental attorney who helped devise the current climate litigation strategy admitted that “getting attention of course from the press” may be “more important” than winning the cases.