James Hansen [CV], the most outspoken climate scientist in the world, has been stirring up something of a furore. Invited by the Democrats to speak in Washington on the 20th anniversary of his famous 1988 testimony to Congress on the dangers of global warming, he used to opportunity to complain about the funding of climate disinformation campaigns by fossil fuel companies [full text]:
Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming. CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children.
Prosecuted for “high crimes against humanity and nature”. That’s a pretty radical view and not surprisingly the climate disinformers have been hard at work trying to rubbish the idea – and Hansen and his work.
Andy Revkin at Dot Earth covers the talk, plus a rather ‘well they would say that, wouldn’t they” reply from big coal, while George Monbiot in The Guardian sympathises but doesn’t think it’ll happen any time soon. I was going to ignore this ruckus as primarily of relevance to the US, until I looked at this post by David Farrar at Kiwiblog. DPF feels free to indulge in some invective:
Frog blogs (?in support) of a James Hansen who is trying to prosecute CEOs of large oil companies for â€œcrimes against humanity and natureâ€. And their crimes:
“Undermining public understanding about global warming”
Is that not the most scary thing you have read? This mad bastard wants to lock up or execute people (normal punishment for crimes against humanity) because they disagree with him on global warming. There are fanatics and there are eco-fascists.
David’s touring the UK at the moment, so perhaps an excess of Flowers fine ales prompted this outburst (although he isn’t averse to playing the “eco fascist” card from time to time), but this is the worst kind of tabloid blogging. Let’s make up stuff (the reference to execution) and whip up some anti-environmentalist fervour. He should be ashamed of himself.
But what motivated me to post on this subject was a comment by Owen McShane, one of the more voluble of the NZ C”S”C cranks:
The debate about Hansen may soon be resolved in the Courts. A group are proposing to present an open letter to the US Attorney General recommending that he be stripped of his office, required to repay the various environmental awards heâ€™s been given, and prosecuted for conspiracy with Al Gore and others to perpetrate securities fraud. The process will be supported by many experts who will submit testimony.
“A group?” No prizes for guessing the names. Or the “experts”. But I wonder who will fund the case? The Heartland Institute, by any chance, since the first threats of court action were made at their crank conference earlier this year? Who exactly are the eco-fascists here?
But it makes Hansen’s point rather well, don’t you think?
(And if any case should come anywhere near court, I’ll be first in the line to donate to his defence fund).
PS: For the record, I doubt very much that any tobacco-style court action will be successful against fossil fuel companies – though have been some attempts already in the US. They are too big, and too powerful in political circles. But I do think that the last ten years of carefully orchestrated disinformation on the need for action will be viewed in a very poor light in years to come, particularly if the climate changes rapidly. And that might lead to some attempts at action. Society’s views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour can change pretty rapidly – particularly in the face of adversity. The links with tobacco clearly run deep…