A new report by the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) calculating the costs of adapting to sea level rise is little more than a poorly masked public relations endeavor, seeking to fuel the campaign pressuring cities across the United States into pursuing litigation against energy companies. While some outlets fell for the full court press, other saw past the masquerade. CCI is not a mere “environmental advocacy group;” it describes itself as a “project of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD)” that “supports litigation and advocacy to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for their fair share of the escalating costs of adapting to climate change.”

CCI launched a new website to house their report, which allows guests to investigate their local costs of adaptation. However, each city navigates to the same landing page, which touts the falsified narrative of the #ExxonKnew campaign:

“Big oil and gas companies like Exxon knew since the 1970s that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet with devastating consequences. Instead of working to curb the risk, they spent millions to create and promote climate denial and obstruct action when it mattered most. Now they want taxpayers to foot the entire bill for all the damages. Communities cannot afford the massive costs of climate adaptation on their own. These costs weren’t always inevitable. Now that they are, polluters should pay their fair share.”

Meteorologist Ryan Maue criticized the reporting that failed to disclose CCI’s true aim with its report:

The Climate Costs Report is Tainted by Activist Network

Not only does this report espouse the tired talking points of the #ExxonKnew campaign, it was also funded and designed by some of its premier activist institutions. CCI does not disclose its donors, and its new report doesn’t disclose who paid for it. When pressed by reporters, Richard Wiles admitted that major donors like the Rockefeller Family Fund and MacArthur Foundation funded the study, though he still refused to say who funds his organization. One organization, the anti-fossil fuel Rockefeller Brothers Fund, does reveal through its website that has funneled nearly $2 million into CCI’s parent organization, IGSD, since 2004.

In addition, the report’s projections were calculated by Wiles’ old employer, Climate Central. Representatives of Climate Central attended the infamous La Jolla conference and conducted key studies cited in the climate lawsuits brought by Sher Edling. Resilient Analytics, the co-publisher of the study, also provided the data for the Boulder climate lawsuit.

CCI’s Robust Litigious Activism

This is not CCI’s inaugural appearance on the climate litigation stage. Since its inception, CCI under the leadership of Richard Wiles, has been coordinating with law firms to pressure cities into pursuing litigation against fossil fuel companies. The project was launched in August 2017, just after San Mateo and Marin counties and the City of Imperial Beach launched their lawsuit.

CCI is dedicating their efforts to states and cities most vulnerable to sea-level rise – namely Florida, which allegedly faces $76 billion in costs related to sea level rise adaptation. In 2018, CCI purchased several billboards throughout Miami to pressure the city into holding “climate polluters” accountable. Later that year, IGSD hired a lobbyist to pressure Fort Lauderdale to pursue a climate lawsuit, working in coordination with EarthRights International and Sher Edling. Their efforts were unsuccessful.

In 2018, the Center also sponsored a paper published in the journal Nature by Ben Franta, which attempted to shame the American Petroleum Institute for informing its members in 1965 that scientists were studying climate change.

This year, the organization has ramped up their advocacy efforts, hosting events in cities like Boulder and Honolulu to promote climate litigation against energy companies. The University of Colorado’s panel included David Bookbinder and Marco Simons, who are leading Boulder’s lawsuit, while the University of Hawaii’s event featured Vic Sher of Sher Edling and CCI’s Alyssa Johl. CCI even co-signed an amicus brief along with Naomi Oreskes, Geoffrey Supran, and other activists in support of Sher Edling’s California climate lawsuits.

Richard Wiles – the Man Behind the Curtain

At the heart of all these efforts is Richard Wiles. Wiles not only spearheads the Center for Climate Integrity, he’s also the executive producer of the Drilled podcast – a podcast dedicated to promoting the climate liability lawsuits.

Additionally, Richard Wiles heads Climate Liability News (CLN), a dark-money “news” site set up in 2017 to promote climate lawsuits across the world. Though CLN doesn’t disclose its funders, its founding editor is Lynn Zinser, a transplant from InsideClimate News, who worked on the original Rockefeller-funded #ExxonKnew articles. Unsurprisingly, CLN dedicates a unique page unique page to this fringe environmentalist effort.

While the Center for Climate Integrity continues to promote their new study as a data-driven look into the costs of adapting to climate change, its true motives can’t be clearer. This report is just the latest tactic of the Rockefeller-funded climate litigation campaign, fueled by a well-funded echo chamber of keep-it-in-the-ground activists.