Is climate ‘misinformation’ criminal negligence?

Wants to apply criminal sanctions to scientific argument

Torcello – criminal sanctions to scientific argument

An assistant professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawrence Torcello, claims that climate ‘misinformation’ should be treated as criminal negligence.

Writing at the taxpayer-funded, and invariably Left-wing, Conversation site, Torcello compares the dissemination of climate ‘misinformation’ with the liability of scientists in relation to the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009:

The earthquake that rocked L’Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”. As one citizen stated:

We all know that the earthquake could not be predicted, and that evacuation was not an option. All we wanted was clearer information on risks in order to make our choices.

Torcello links to the inevitable ‘97% of climate scientists believe…’ myth and continutes:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists. (source)

But as with all those overcome with such totalitarian instincts, the arguments could quite easily be turned around. For example, the 97% figure Torcello cites is itself a blatant example of climate misinformation. It may be that 97% of scientists accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that an increase in the proportion of that molecule in the atmosphere will increase warming. But to claim that 97% of scientists subscribe to the alarmism of catastrophic AGW vastly overstates the certainty of the science.

As a result of that overconfidence in the apocalyptic projections of climate models, many of the poorest in society will be denied access to cheap electricity as a result of harsh emissions reduction measures, and will be prevented from enjoying the economic growth from which others have benefitted. If those emission reduction measures are eventually shown to be unnecessary, and that many have suffered as a result, should those responsible for the 97% figure be held criminally negligent as well?

Or perhaps these too:

  • Those who intentionally play down any natural influence on the climate (e.g. casually ignoring or dismissing solar effects), with the same end result? Should they also be held criminally negligent?
  • All those environmental activists who have ensured that piles of grey literature have been incorporated into the IPCC reports, to ensure that the worst possible scenarios are always communicated to the public? Them too?
  • The IPCC scientists themselves, perhaps, for intentionally offering up ‘scary scenarios‘ in order to capture the public’s attention and force governments to take action? That’s pretty shocking.
  • Those who engaged in blatant scientific misconduct, as evidenced by the Climategate emails? Hiding the decline sounds like intentional misrepresentation to me. That’s not just negligent, it’s wilful.
  • Those who use climate change as a Trojan horse for their own political ends, e.g. advocating a return to socialism, or to force through social justice reform? Surely that is climate misrepresentation as well?
  • The Greens, who shamelessly exaggerate the risks of climate change for their own political advantage?
  • Even the governments that have relied on so-called ‘independent’ climate advisers, such as David Karoly and Clive Hamilton (no, don’t laugh), on their climate panels, such as the Australian government’s Climate Change Authority? Ditto?

I could go on…

Once again, we see the double standards that are applied to the consensus and those that challenge it. The moral here is that those in glass houses should not throw stones.

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