The public debate over the reality of global warming and its consequences continues, with experts trying to interpret and explain facts and the public trying to sort things out. But, should climate change deniers be imprisoned as one professor says?
Rochester Institute of Technology philosophy professor Lawrence Torcello made just such a claim in the essay “Is Misinformation About the Climate Criminally Negligent?” that he submitted to The Conversation, an academic website. Torcello called for jailing any American who disagrees with the idea that human activity is driving climate change.
Torcello argued that certain individuals are engaged in a funding a misinformation campaign, and that this behavior “ought to be considered criminally negligent.”
The essay invites readers to consider other cases where deliberate misinformation has been used to undermine science for political and financial gain.
Torcello’s essay cites the example of a 2009 earthquake in L’Aquilla, Italy. Six scientists were put in jail for not adequately warning residents and officials of the danger. That disaster killed 300 people and left 60,000 people homeless.
The essay invites readers to imagine what might have happened if those scientists tried to warn people but, for financial or political reasons, those efforts were attacked and discredited, leading to no preparations for an earthquake being made.
He claims that the same thing is happening in the climate change debate. Financial and political interests are trying to discredit the science and putting people in danger. This is why professor Torcello says that climate change deniers might need to be imprisoned.
The professor noted that climate change deniers are a major deterrent to “meaningful political action” in countries most responsible for the problem.
Torcello is aware of first amendment concerns related to any attempt at stopping climate change deniers and calls for laws in the United States and other countries to be updates. Those updates could protect those expressing unpopular opinions while punishing anyone working on a “strategically organized campaign” to keep people from developing informed opinions.
Conservative sites and conspiracy theory sites have picked up on the story. Analysis and reported showed up today on both InfoWars, the site of radio host Alex Jones, and Hot Air. An article posted on Infowars claims that any American who expresses disbelief in climate change would a criminal in Torcello’s world.
An analysis on Hot Air, posted by Bruce McQuain, raises a similar concern, namely that people who don’t buy the “alarmist” argument could become criminals.
Yet that is precisely not what Torcello states in the essay. Charges of “criminal and moral negligence” should target those who fund climate change denial in efforts to undermine public understanding, he writes.
The essay appeared on the same day that a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a direct warning about the grim consequences that could come from climate change.
Also, today Gallup released the results of a new poll on global warming. The poll revealed that 57 percent of Americans blame human activity for the changing climate, a decline from 61 percent in 2001. This number has declined slightly, from 61 percent in 2001. Gallup did not comment on the likely cause of this decline.
The poll also revealed that people who claim to understand the science of climate change “very well” (47 percent) are less likely to attribute climate change than are those who claim to understand “slightly” (62 percent). Those ratings are self-reported, so the reader has to trust that people really understand as much or as little as they claim to.
One professor says that climate change deniers should be imprisoned, but it is not clear from the essay or the latest Gallup poll on global warming that the deniers are doing actual damage.
By Chester Davis