Poly sci professor says climate change 'deniers' should be 'punished'

Michael Kraft, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, has penned an op-ed appearing in the Providence Journal that proposes punishing people who disagree with him about climate change.

Dismissal of well-established climate science has parallels to decades of debate over tobacco use and its effects on health. Tobacco companies long denied any causal relation between smoking and disease even when their own studies showed the opposite to be true.

Similarly, some fossil fuel companies for decades publicly rejected established climate science and the role of burning fossil fuels in anthropogenic climate change while their internal studies confirmed both.

Conflating the debate over tobacco safety with global warming is about as absurd as it gets.  As far back as the 1960s, every major medical organization and the federal government itself recognized the dangers of tobacco use.  Who the hell cared what the tobacco companies were saying?  Cigarette advertising on TV was banned in the early '70s. 

As far as the "internal studies" of fossil fuel companies confirming global warming, exactly one company – ExxonMobil – was warned by exactly one "climate scientist" in the early '80s about global warming.  Kraft, as is the wont of climate hysterics, gets the facts spectacularly wrong.

Is there a parallel to current controversies over climate change science? Some members of Congress say there is. Members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to pursue charges under RICO against major fossil fuel companies for knowingly deceiving the public — and investors — about the dangers of climate change when their own studies showed the reality of the threat. Under questioning by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed she has referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for study.

In addition, in late March, more than a dozen state attorneys general meeting in New York also said they would "aggressively" investigate whether fossil fuel companies misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change. Several state attorneys general already have initiated such investigations under consumer and investor protection laws.

Some ask whether such inquiries should be limited to fossil fuel companies. What about extending the liability, they say, to certain think tanks and advocacy groups?

Some such groups have been heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry and have misrepresented climate change risks to the public. That might be a tougher sell, given rights to free speech, but it could be given consideration.

Again, there are no "studies" done by fossil fuel companies on the supposedly awful effects of global warming – not until the 2000s. 

But have private groups "misrepresented" climate change risks to the public?  Groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute have pushed back against the hysterics by highlighting and publishing alternate opinions on climate change.  That's their job.  They aren't "falsifying" anything.  They are promoting theories that, for the most part, have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. 

Is that a criminal act?  The threats of prosecution are mostly for show.  What government is really after are tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars from the oil companies in settlement cash.  They are banking on fossil fuel companies wanting to avoid long and expensive litigation just to get the government off their backs.

As with tobacco, asbestos, and other products found to be dangerous, it will no doubt work with global warming.

Michael Kraft, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, has penned an op-ed appearing in the Providence Journal that proposes punishing people who disagree with him about climate change.

Dismissal of well-established climate science has parallels to decades of debate over tobacco use and its effects on health. Tobacco companies long denied any causal relation between smoking and disease even when their own studies showed the opposite to be true.

Similarly, some fossil fuel companies for decades publicly rejected established climate science and the role of burning fossil fuels in anthropogenic climate change while their internal studies confirmed both.

Conflating the debate over tobacco safety with global warming is about as absurd as it gets.  As far back as the 1960s, every major medical organization and the federal government itself recognized the dangers of tobacco use.  Who the hell cared what the tobacco companies were saying?  Cigarette advertising on TV was banned in the early '70s. 

As far as the "internal studies" of fossil fuel companies confirming global warming, exactly one company – ExxonMobil – was warned by exactly one "climate scientist" in the early '80s about global warming.  Kraft, as is the wont of climate hysterics, gets the facts spectacularly wrong.

Is there a parallel to current controversies over climate change science? Some members of Congress say there is. Members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to pursue charges under RICO against major fossil fuel companies for knowingly deceiving the public — and investors — about the dangers of climate change when their own studies showed the reality of the threat. Under questioning by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed she has referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for study.

In addition, in late March, more than a dozen state attorneys general meeting in New York also said they would "aggressively" investigate whether fossil fuel companies misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change. Several state attorneys general already have initiated such investigations under consumer and investor protection laws.

Some ask whether such inquiries should be limited to fossil fuel companies. What about extending the liability, they say, to certain think tanks and advocacy groups?

Some such groups have been heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry and have misrepresented climate change risks to the public. That might be a tougher sell, given rights to free speech, but it could be given consideration.

Again, there are no "studies" done by fossil fuel companies on the supposedly awful effects of global warming – not until the 2000s. 

But have private groups "misrepresented" climate change risks to the public?  Groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute have pushed back against the hysterics by highlighting and publishing alternate opinions on climate change.  That's their job.  They aren't "falsifying" anything.  They are promoting theories that, for the most part, have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. 

Is that a criminal act?  The threats of prosecution are mostly for show.  What government is really after are tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars from the oil companies in settlement cash.  They are banking on fossil fuel companies wanting to avoid long and expensive litigation just to get the government off their backs.

As with tobacco, asbestos, and other products found to be dangerous, it will no doubt work with global warming.