Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist

– I’ve been murmuring for sometime now that the folks who have organized and sponsored these climate disinformation campaigns may well be held responsible for crimes against humanity in the future once folks see the full consequences of their malfeasance. And I am glad to see that someone like James Hansen with some serious credibility has put the idea out there publicly.

– Some will say that those who run these big corporations are just doing their jobs; just following orders; just doing what they have to do so they can hang onto their jobs. And the corporate folks themselves will say that if they didn’t do it, someone else would.

– Well, they’ll say all that, but it doesn’t cut any slack with me.

– When WWII ended, we had the Nuremberg Trials and the issue of whether or not soldiers could plead that they were ‘just following orders from their superiors’ was looked at as a possible defense. But the answer from the judges was ‘No’.

“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

– They said that even each lowly soldier had the responsibility to make a judgment whether or not what he or she was doing was immoral or not.

– So, the corporate CEOs who’ve put the might of their business’ money behind climate disinformation campaigns; whose orders were they following? And the answer is, they were following the aggregate will of the many shareholders they work for. And the will of those many shareholders, above all else, was and is to maximize the company’s profits – to increase their own.

– When you look at the causal connections, it’s hard to know where to hang the blame but, the fact is, the buck has to stop somewhere. These corporate entities, and those who run them, cannot be allowed to conduct disinformation campaigns designed to protect their profits at the cost dissuading humanity from reacting appropriately to an impending global disaster.

– At the deepest level, I think responsibility lies with those who, through their shortsightedness, allowed corporations to become equal to sovereign citizens and to develop levels of power equal or exceeding that of many nation states. I’ve talked about this before here.

– But, in the shorter term, those who sat in the board rooms and made cold-blooded decisions in favor of protecting their corporation’s profits (and their own jobs) and ignored the likely consequences to humanity’s future (and, indeed, the biosphere’s future) – these folks need to be held accountable. They’ve traded all of our future’s and our children’s futures away for some transient baubles.

– So, I agree strongly with Hansen on this issue; these folks need to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, foractively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

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· Testimony to US Congress will also criticize lobbyists
· ‘Revolutionary’ policies needed to tackle crisis

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”


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