Free Speech and Climate Change
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Free Speech and Climate Change


The Attorney General of New York has joined
with 19 other State Attorneys’ General to launch a Multi-State criminal investigation
focusing on whether ExxonMobil, other petroleum and energy companies as well as public policy
institutions and scientists are engaged in some kind of racketeering enterprise to mislead
the public on climate change. Most recently, as part of that Multi-State investigation,
the Competitive Enterprise Institute received a wide-ranging subpoena asking for all of
its internal communications and external communications, internal documents, basically everything it’s
ever done on climate change over a period of a decade. The prosecutors involved in this
case are drawing on precedent of civil RICO claims that were brought against the tobacco
industry in the 90’s and 2000’s. But this is very different. The tobacco industry there
is arguably an effort to cover up what were very serious harms and defects with its products
that that industry knew about. On the other hand, with climate change you’ve got this
enormous, very wide-ranging, ongoing decades-long debate where the answers are still unclear
in terms of exactly how it functions, what the different parameters are, the extent to
which human anthropogenic emissions are relevant and the extent to which we might see catastrophic
impacts or not and the extent to which we ought to respond preemptively in a policy
fashion or not. Being targeted for a subpoena, being the subject of a lawsuit, having that
cloud of legal uncertainty floating over your head is enough to intimidate and it’s enough
to chill very important speech. Simply put, if we’re going to reach the right solutions
for climate change, if we’re going to spend the right amount of money, if we’re going
to have the right regulations and if we’re going to reach a policy that people agree
is a reasonable and correct policy, the way we’re going to get there is by having a
free and open and wide-ranging debate, we’re not going to get there by artificially shutting
down half the debate, by threatening people with criminal sanctions. This isn’t just
about climate change, it’s about the way that we formulate public policy and the way
that we participate in politics in the United States of America. We’ve always had the
view in America that more speech is better but if you disagree with someone you don’t
shut him up; you tell him why he’s wrong and you tell the public why he’s wrong.

4 Comments

  • Michael Hauser

    of course climate change is man made. chemtrails are sprayed and it intensifies the sunlight coming through and makes it hotter. controlling and modifying jet stream and weather patterns is also part of it. get ready for a shill to comment and reply to me. 3….2…..1

  • scruffyzejanitor

    If they were really worried about the environment we would all be using tom ogles vapor carburetor and getting over 200 mpg.

  • El Gato

    What ever happened to global warming? No wait, in the 70's it was the coming of a global ice age (I remember an interesting Time cover about that when I was a teen). No wait, it's an inconvenient truth … That's right, it's called "climate change" now. Climate change … Hhrrmmmm, now that's a convenient way to put it …. Not that I agree or disagree with the speaker, or any other geological or meteorological position regarding this subject yet at this point , but I do agree with the argument that states, freedom of speech and opinion is paramount in making a fully informed decision on any course of action related to … Wait , What was it called now … Oh yea, it changed again, now it's climate disruption.

  • Aanthanur DC

    the answers are not unclear, end as we know from the internal documents of Exxon, they knew that, their own scientists concluded that AGW is reeal nd a problem , and that was in the 1980's.

    this is exactly like the tabacco industry, except that the damage to our species is much much larger than from tabacco. we are talking about damage to the climate system on the only planet we have…..

    we know much better the causes and impacts of AGW than from tabacco.

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