Green Watch

The Niskanen Center’s Eco-Litigators: Sue Oil Companies for Causing Climate Change

“Sue Oil Companies for Causing Climate Change”


Just a few years ago, the Niskanen Center called itself “libertarian.”

Then the ex-Cato Institute breakaway added “left” to “libertarian.”

Now the libertarian-turned-lefty group wants the rest of us to “leave ideology behind.” No more conservatives, no more libertarians—instead, let’s all conform to Niskanen’s vision of an “open society.”

Wait, where have we heard that one before?

It’s no coincidence that billionaire globalist George Soros named his fleet of foundations and advocacy groups after the “open society” model envisioned by Karl Popper, an ex-Marxist who pushed for social engineering policies. In fact, there are few globalists so devoted to the dream of an “open society” as Soros—though Niskanen is trying hard to catch up.

Perhaps that’s why Soros’ Open Society Foundations donated $500,000 to the Niskanen Center in 2017 for “immigration and foreign policy” advocacy—two areas beloved by the enemies of national sovereignty, borders, and self-government. After all, the Niskanen Center glowingly describes itself as a band of “globalists who share progressives’ desire to robustly address economic and social inequality.”

Nowhere is Niskanen’s dedication to the “open society” project more alive than in its global warming advocacy. In 2015, Niskanen president Jerry Taylor—a one-time skeptic on global warming—authored The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax, still the group’s flagship effort to infiltrate the Right with leftist ideas on catastrophic man-made climate change.

At the time, Taylor argued that conservatives (not libertarians, you’ll note) “should embrace a carbon tax” targeting America’s oil, natural gas, and coal production or else risk “command-and-control” regulations from the radical Left. It was, in Taylor’s opinion, the more pro-free-market option available.

That was Niskanen in 2015. Today, the group embraces the full-throated radicalism of the eco-Left, with Taylor authoring an absurd 11,000-word open letter to the socialists behind the Green New Deal—calling their cause “just” if “sometimes given to overstatement.”

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Niskanen’s chief counsel is David Bookbinder, ex-chief climate counsel to the Sierra Club. Bookbinder is eco-royalty; in 2007, he managed the Sierra Club’s involvement in the Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA. That case gave the EPA unprecedented authority to regulate “dangerous” greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act of 1970.

We’re still living with the fallout from Massachusetts v. EPA today: a framework built on the phony premise that the Clean Air Act—which was created to regulate pollutants like smog and soot—also charges the EPA with saving the country from global warming. The case established the nonsensical position that carbon dioxide and other gases are pollutants, instead of naturally occurring gases necessary for life on Earth (especially in the case of carbon dioxide).

And in case you think Bookbinder is a pseudo-conservative, think again. His Niskanen biography brags about his role in cases demanding increased regulation in California “which effectively imposed a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.” It also claims he “led Sierra Club’s work on judicial nominations, including the filibusters” against the George W. Bush administration’s judicial appointments between 2003 and 2006.

Last April, Niskanen went a step further towards eco-authoritarianism by offering pro bono legal services to two Colorado jurisdictions suing oil companies ExxonMobil and Suncor for supposedly harming the local climate, demanding compensation in return. The case was trumpeted by the Sierra Club, 350.org, and Earth Guardians while the suit itself was encouraged by EarthRights International, a left-wing litigation nonprofit that offered the jurisdictions free legal representation. EarthRights is heavily funded by Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

Niskanen’s Taylor and Bookbinder even penned a piece supporting the lawsuit, entitled, “Oil Companies Should be Held Accountable for Climate Change.” The pair blamed the oil producers for “contribut[ing] to global warming” and “increas[ing] the number and severity of wildfires, droughts, and flash flooding.”

Bizarrely, they even defend the effort to squeeze companies for cash as “common law”—and thus something to be defended by conservatives and libertarians.

If blaming private companies for an ever-changing climate seems harsh to you, consider that some on the Left favor jailing so-called “climate change deniers” for the crime of skepticism. In 2008, then-NASA senior director James Hansen told Congress that fossil fuel company “CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”

It’s concerning, then, that Niskanen cites Hansen as an expert on global warming policies. Given its rapid slide to the left, one wonders if the Niskanen Center will one day call for jailing climate change skeptics—and call it conservative.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is an Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and a graduate of Sonoma State University.
+ More by Hayden Ludwig

Support Capital Research Center's award-winning journalism

Donate today to assist in promoting the principles of individual liberty in America.

Read Next