At a recent Cato Institute event titled, “Preparing for Paris: What to Expect from the U.N.’s 2015 Climate Change Conference,” climate skeptic Roy Spencer raised eyebrows when he said that environmentalists should be investigated under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) because of the energy policies they push.

Thomas Wysmuller, owner of, questioned the panelists about the recent revelation that ExxonMobil incorporated climate research into its operations while publicly casting doubt on that very same science. After Judith Curry and Ryan Maue provided answers, Spencer made his statement:

Wysmuller: Quick question. There has been recent activity in Congress calling for RICO investigations. I know Roger Pielke Jr. has decided he is going to try and sidestep this. Has it affected your vision of your jobs? And if you could explain how and maybe not at all.

Spencer: I’d like to see calls for RICO investigations for people on the other side of this. People who have been pushing for energy policies that we know will kill people and they know that and yet they have hidden that information from the public and from politicians for the purposes of advancing an agenda. So, you know, I think they better be careful of what they try to accomplish because I think we could go the other direction in spades.


Spencer did not elaborate further on his allegations or novel legal theory.

The Los Angeles Times, Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project, and InsideClimate News all recently published investigations showing Exxon  spent millions of dollars on climate change research in the 1970s and 1980s. The oil corporation then funded organizations that disputed the mainstream science on climate change or emphasized “uncertainty” in the context of opposing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The disclosures prompted Senator Bernie SandersHillary ClintonMartin O’Malleyformer Vice President Al Gore, and members of Congress to call for a federal investigation. Even a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney, Sharon Eubanks, who prosecuted and won the racketeering case against the tobacco industry said, “I think a RICO action is plausible and should be considered.” And on Wednesday New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena seeking Exxon Mobil records as part of an investigation into whether the company’s alleged deceptions violated New York financial fraud statutes.

Roy Spencer is a research scientist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Before speaking at the Cato Institute event he previously spoke at Heartland Institute’s climate denial conference. Spencer also testified before an administrative law judge in Minnesota on behalf of Peabody Energy regarding the environmental and socioeconomic costs of carbon and greenhouse gases. According to Kevin Grandia at DeSmog, “Spencer did not respond to a request to clarify his financial relationship with Peabody Energy.”

Spencer has a career filled with outrageous statements, including these:

There’s probably a natural reason for global warming … We will look back on it as a gigantic false alarm … The Earth isn’t that sensitive to how much CO2 we put into the atmosphere. I think we need to consider the possibility that more carbon dioxide is better than less. – 2008

We see something change in our climate and we blame ourselves … I don’t think we understand what happens. We can watch it happen on the (climate) models, we know it happens, but we don’t know for sure how it happens. – 2007

Politicians and some of the scientists like to say that there’s a consensus now on global warming or the science has been settled, but you have to ask them, what is there a consensus on? Because it really makes a difference. What are you talking about? The only consensus I`m aware of is that it’s warmed in the last century. They completely ignore the fact that there’s this thing called the Oregon petition that was signed by 19,000 professionals and scientists who don’t agree with the idea that we are causing climate change.  – 2007