Climate Crimes Against Humanity?
PBS recently aired Frontline’s “Climate of Doubt,” documenting the success of the denialists in reversing U.S. political opinion on climate science. While journalists and academics have been covering this story, this was the first comprehensive television documentary about the groups and political forces driving the climate change denial effort.
Scientists’ physical predictions are often accompanied by societal and economic predictions as well. Frankenstorms like Sandy are part of the forecasts, but more extreme scenarios foresee drought, famine, population dislocations, climate refugees and human suffering. Should these predictions come true, you might expect anger and demand for an accounting. This could take the form of lawsuits against industries associated with greenhouse gases, like oil and gas. ExxonMobil, arguably the inventor of the denialists’ strategy of doubt, got out of the denial business in 2005, fearing the climate equivalent of tobacco litigation. With a company full of geologists, it would be impossible to argue that the company didn’t understand the science. But worse case human suffering might lead to something more. Will future generations see the action of today’s denialists as “climate crimes against humanity?” If so, they will have abundant documentation to press charges.