Should oil executives be prosecuted for high crimes against humanity? Top NASA scientist Jim Hansen thinks so.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Hansen said,
Clearly many the scientific community have finally had it with being nice with the oil lobby…
For years scientists in their pedantic and thoughtful way have sought to inform the public about the growing dangers of climate change. For years, the oil lobby responded by hiring some of the best people in the PR industry to confuse the public debate about this planetary emergency. In that battle for the hearts and minds of the public around climate science, truth hardly stood a chance.
Indeed, the oil industry's efforts to delay meaningful action will likely go down in history as the most audacious, cynical and successful public relations campaign in history.
How successful? Lets put it this way, when Jim Hansen gave a groundbreaking speech to congress June 23 1988, he said the evidence of the greenhouse gas effect was 99% certain, adding “it is time to stop waffling.”
Fast-forward twenty years. A poll done last week on behalf of the Guardian showed that the majority of Britons still doubt that humans are responsible for climate change, or feel that scientists are exaggerating the threat.
The cynical strategy of trying to confound the public around science is of course not new. For years, Big Tobacco managed to delay regulation of their very dangerous product by denying the science. The tobacco lobby once stated plainly in a secret memo “doubt is our product.”
Sound familiar? Similar efforts by the oil industry are indeed the reason that DesmogBlog was started by James Hoggan - to try and expose this heinous effort on the part of some of his professional colleagues to conceal the truth.
But Hansen has a point in laying the blame, not at the feet of the PR industry, but on the people who paid them. The top professionals in any field do not work for free and clearly someone was footing a big bill for this sophisticated campaign.
As for jail time, is it reasonable to ask that oil executives be chucked in the hooscow? Law and justice often have little to do with each other and I am sure that these wealthy and powerful people would employ every trick in the book to avoid being held legally accountable for their conduct.
But the immorality of seeking to delay action on climate change will come into sharper focus as global warming proceeds. I have no doubt that it will one day be seen in same light as standing outside a burning orphanage and telling the arriving firemen that there is nothing going on and they all should go home.