California Joins the Effort to Persecute, Suppress Scientific Dissent on Climate Change
This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky was published January 21, 2016 by The Daily Signal.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has joined New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in trying to prosecute ExxonMobil for supposedly lying to its shareholders and the public about climate change, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times reported that Harris is investigating what ExxonMobil “knew about global warming and what the company told investors.”
Neither Harris nor Schneiderman recognizes the outrageousness of what they are doing —- which amounts to censoring or restricting speech and a debate on what is a contentious scientific theory. In fact, they want not just to stop anyone who questions the global warming theory from being able to speak; they want to punish them with possible civil sanctions or even criminal penalties. As I said before about Schneiderman, Harris needs a remedial lesson in the First Amendment.
Perhaps we should investigate what Harris “knows” about global warming or climate change, which Harris (and Schneiderman) treats as if it is a proven, unassailable, incontrovertible fact. However, as the Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris has pointed out, “flaws discovered in the scientific assessment of climate change have shown that the scientific consensus is not as settled as the public had been led to believe.”
According to Loris, leaked emails and documents from various universities and researchers have “revealed conspiracy, exaggerated warming data, possibly illegal destruction and manipulation of data, and attempts to freeze out dissenting scientists from publishing their work in reputable journals.” Furthermore, the “gaffes” that have been exposed in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports “have only increased skepticism” about the credibility of this scientific theory.
These investigations are reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, where Joseph Stalin persecuted those who he thought had the “wrong” scientific views on everything from linguistics to physics. Besides sending them a copy of the Constitution so they can review the First Amendment, residents of both New York and California might also want to include a copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, “In the First Circle,” in which he outlined the Soviet government’s suppression of dissenting scientists and engineers.
What makes this even worse is the fact that other public officials also want those who question this scientific theory investigated, prosecuted, and punished. According to the Times story, these include Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., who have sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Securities and Exchange Commission “calling for federal investigation of securities fraud and violations of racketeering, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection or other laws.”
But then, criminal investigations of climate change dissenters have been also called for by academics and other officials, among them former Vice President Al Gore. Maybe these politicians and their allies would favor passing a modern version of the Alien and Sedition Act, perhaps renamed the Global Warming Sedition Act. Just like the 1798 law, it could punish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the climate change theory.
The bottom line is that the state attorneys general of New York and California are not acting like level-headed, objective prosecutors interested in the fair and dispassionate administration of justice. They are instead acting like Grand Inquisitors who must stamp out any heresy that doubts the legitimacy of the climate change religion. They are treating an unproven scientific theory as if it is a creed that cannot be questioned, probed, examined, or doubted.