By: Benjamin Weingarten
“The world must not belong to those who slander the prophets of Global Warming, Climate Change, or Climate Disruption.”
So said Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a fatwa issued in the Washington Post.
OK — perhaps that was not what he said verbatim, but it might as well have been.
Whitehouse intimated that racketeering charges be considered regarding Big Oil’s support of research challenging the supposed climate change consensus.
Without a hint of irony given the nature and activities of the climate change movement, Whitehouse compared the oil industry – which after the American people will be most harmed by regulations putatively relating to climate — to the RICO-violating tobacco business:
The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.
In a point almost beyond parody, Whitehouse relies on a report by a Drexel University professor whose “environmental justice” work has been funded by federal grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A nakedly partisan voice, the “Culture and Communication” department professor lists as areas of research and teaching “Critical Theory,” “Social Movements” and “Social Change,” to go along with the more relevant “Environmental Sociology.”
The professor writes that the “climate denial network”
span[s] a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.
None of these activities are illegal, or even unethical – though if Whitehouse gets his way the thought crime of challenging global warming may soon be.
All of these activities one can ascribe to the very environmentalist cause to which the professor is a part, except that academics like himself and other global warming proponents are also again showered with government support to the tune of $2.5 billion in research funding annually.
Is government money in the hands of policy advocates any more or less corrupting than private money? Should not private enterprise be allowed to dispense with its funds as it wishes?
One wonders whether Whitehouse has considered the conflict of interest or free enterprise considerations at hand.
Moreover, while Whitehouse questions Big Oil’s motives and actions, he ignores the dubious track record of those on his side of the climate debate.
Specifically, Whitehouse’s recent diatribe was silent with respect to Climategate, the inaccurate models on which the global warming crowd relies and the significant flaws in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Is the senator aware that the science is decidedly not settled — even according to President Barack Obama’s former undersecretary of science in the Department of Energy?
More broadly, Whitehouse’s irresponsible op-ed — which raises the prospect of civil discovery — represents a chilling threat to those who dissent from the orthodoxy of the political elite.
Coincidentally, this chill has already crossed the pond, sending a shiver down the spine of European oil companies.
Just last week, the heads of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and several other executives issued a public letter in which they effectively raised the white flag in the face of governments hell-bent on further regulating their activities in the name of global warming.
Resigned to this fate, the companies called for a rational, clear and consistent set of rules governing carbon credits, and asked for a spot at the table in discussions with the U.N. and other political bodies in order to protect themselves.
It is unclear whether U.S. companies will go the way of their European counterparts. But what Whitehouse’s comments indicate is that our government is at least willing to explore using legal coercion if American enterprises do not submit to the environmentalist party line.
We have seen this “process as punishment” in the private sector, through actions such as climate scientist Michael Mann’s targeting of conservative commentator Mark Steyn and others, but the federal government’s threat to Big Oil would be of an entirely different size, scope and character.
Lost in all this is the fact that the global warming crusade against so-called “denialists” represents another area in which liberal illiberality threatens critical areas of speech.
Recent challenges to free speech whether as a means of enforcing de facto or de jure Shariah slander and blasphemy laws, stifling political messages or now crushing scientific dissent reveal a totalitarian impulse to end debate.
It is particularly galling in this instance because scientific discovery requires constantly questioning assumptions and testing hypotheses. Especially when science is being used as a basis for determining public policy that affects the lives of billions of people and concerns trillions of dollars worth of resources, the burden of proof must be immense.
Proponents of climate change should be providing an unprecedented amount of transparency and welcoming all scrutiny – indeed encouraging competition in the marketplace of ideas — if they really care about getting the science right.
While we can never know the true motivations of a politician, it stands to reason that Whitehouse and many of his colleagues may view environmentalism as as good a justification as any for seizing wealth from one of America’s few remaining booming industries.
If that is the case, all advocates of truth should prefer that he show the same candor as Rep. Maxine Waters, who called for “socializ—,” sorry, “taking over … [with] government running all … [of Shell’s] oil companies.”
While Waters may support violating the Fifth Amendment, it appears Whitehouse would rather challenge the First.
The consequences of the latter would be far more dire than the former.
For if the First Amendment falls, all of the rest shall soon follow.