Prosecute Climate-Change Skeptics?
by Jake Hebert, Ph.D. *
Bible-believing Christians have good reasons to expect a stable climate, since the greatest climate-changing event in history, the Genesis Flood, has already occurred. Furthermore, the Lord promised us that such a Flood would never again take place and the post-Flood climate would remain relatively stable (Genesis 9:11, 8:22). Likewise, a global Flood is the only truly convincing explanation for an Ice Age.1
Those who reject biblical history believe that many ice ages have occurred in Earth's supposed distant past. They also believe that some of these ice ages produced dramatic, even catastrophic changes in climate, and so tend to exhibit a great deal of alarmism over the subject of "global warming" or "climate change."
This was recently demonstrated by the twenty academics who wrote a letter to President Obama, urging him to use the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law—originally intended for use against organized crime—to investigate organizations that are skeptical of the purported dangers of "climate change."2 The first signature on the letter is that of Jagadish Shukla, a meteorologist at George Mason University and president of the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES). The letter was posted on the organization's website but has since apparently been taken down, presumably in response to withering criticism in the blogosphere. However, the text of the letter has been posted on other websites.3
The September 1st letter, also addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, urged "investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America's response to climate change."3
This letter comes after a United States Senator also intimated that the RICO law could be used to prosecute skeptics of "climate change."4
Likewise, a British professor of international law recently argued that an international court ruling should be used to settle the debate over global warming/climate change: "One of the most important things an international court could do—in my view it is probably the single most important thing it could do—is to settle the scientific dispute."5
Reading such proposals is both humorous and alarming. Settling a scientific debate by court order? Prosecuting critics of the dominant viewpoint? Can these people really be serious?
Such proposals, and their implications, including government-sponsored viewpoint discrimination, for both science and First Amendment freedoms, have alarmed a number of political commentators, not to mention at least one well-known scientist.3,6 Climatologist Dr. Judith Curry admonished the signatories on her personal blog, stating, "I regard it as highly unethical for scientists to support defeating scientists with whom you disagree by such methods."3
Moreover, it is somewhat ironic that one of the signatories of the IGES letter has himself been accused of deception by one of his colleagues. Kevin Trenberth is a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and was a report author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Chris Landsea, a leading United States hurricane expert, resigned from the IPCC in 2005 after publicly accusing Trenberth of misrepresenting his research in order to push the idea that man-made global warming was causing an increase in hurricane severity.7,8 If Trenberth believes that skeptics of climate change alarmism should be investigated, and potentially prosecuted, and jailed for what he believes is intentional deception,9 then is he willing to submit himself and his work to that same level of scrutiny?
It should also be noted that other academics have been highly critical of some of the arguments for catastrophic man-made "global warming," including the well-known "hockey stick" graph (publicized in the movie An Inconvenient Truth) of Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann.10,11 Likewise, it's interesting that proponents of such measures now often use the phrase "climate change" rather than "global warming." Of course, "climate change" is harder to pin down, as it could apply to either a warming or cooling climate!
We can learn several lessons from these events.
First, the fact that climate-change alarmists feel the need to use heavy-handed legal tactics to try to "settle" this debate appears to be a sign of desperation. Scientific issues should be decided by evidence and arguments, not by legal edicts or the prosecution of critics!
Second, Christians absolutely should not be panicking over this issue, as much of the alarmism over this issue is tied to a denial of the biblical worldview.12
Third, it is worth noting a parallel between this issue and that of the creation-evolution debate. Proponents of evolution have long relied on court decisions, such as Kitzmiller v. Dover,13 to prevent public-school students from being exposed, not just to evidence for design in nature, but even to problems in the evolutionary story. If the evidence for evolution is as strong as its supporters claim, why the need to shield students from its many problems?
The scientific method is based on observation and testing. It's a process of critical thinking that requires free and open dialogue. Hence, scientific conclusions cannot be coerced or enforced by political or legal edicts. Proponents of evolution and the hypothesis of catastrophic man-made global warming often assert that those who question their claims are either ignorant of science or are attempting to politicize these controversial issues. Yet their willingness to use strong-arm legal tactics to "settle" these debates is itself utterly inconsistent with the scientific method.
- Hebert, J. 2013. Was There an Ice Age? Acts & Facts. 42 (12): 20.
- Letter posted on iges.org, accessed September 22, 2015.
- Curry, J. RICO! Posted at judithcurry.com September 17, 2015, accessed September 22, 2015.
- Whitehouse, S. The fossil-fuel industry's campaign to mislead the American people. Posted on washingtonpost.com May 29, 2015, accessed September 22, 2015.
- Vaughan, A. World court should rule on climate science to quash sceptics, says Philippe Sands. Posted on theguardian.com September 18, 2105, accessed September 22, 2015.
- Hemingway, M. Senator: Use RICO Laws to Prosecute Global Warming Skeptics. Posted on weeklystandard.com June 2, 2015, accessed September 22, 2015.
- Delingpole, J. Climate Alarmists to Obama: Use RICO Laws to Jail Skeptics! Posted on breitbart.com September 19, 2015, accessed September 22, 2015.
- Landsea, C. Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC. Posted January 17, 2005, accessed September 22, 2015.
- The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute is codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. Criminal penalties potentially imposed under 18 U.S.C. § 1963 include up to 20 years of jail time, fines, and property confiscations (of certain tangible and/or intangible assets).
- McIntyre, S. and R. McKitrick. 2003. Corrections to the Mann et. al. (1998) Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemispheric Average Temperature Series. Energy and Environment. 14 (6): 751-771.
- McIntyre, S. and R. McKitrick. 2005. The M&M Critique of the MBH98 Northern Hemisphere Climate Index: Update and Implications. Energy and Environment. 16(1): 69-100.
- Hebert, J. Weather Channel Founder Blasts 'Climate Change.' Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org October 24, 2014, accessed September 22, 2015.
- 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M. D. Pa. 2005).
*Dr. Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Article posted on October 12, 2015.