Climate change deniers should be punished

Climate deniers should be punished

Public opinion is in constant danger. Attempts are made from all sides to influence them in order to manipulate them. It's about the image, but often enough also about influencing political moods in such a way that social trends emerge from them. Even globally. This influence is exerted through think tanks and lobbyists as well as the media - in our present, preferably through so-called “social media”. The then governor of the US state of California, Hiram Johnson, is attributed the bon mot from 1914: "The truth is the first victim of the war". That is to say, the winner of the war will be the one who most skillfully adjusts the truth for his own purposes. “Truth” is actually a difficult term. In the conceptual context of "war", however, everyone understands it, because it is about their own cause - or what is taken for it. And every means is right for them. In this context I recommend the great film "The Imitation Game" with Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Alan Turing, who deciphered the Nazis' Enigma.

Having the authority to interpret the terms is no less important nowadays. “War on terror”, for example, is of course a war on terror, but it is by no means a war that promotes terrorism. Social market economy, especially “new”, stands today for freedom of entrepreneurship from regulation and other state reprisals, no longer for balancing interests and redistribution. And climate change is not anthropogenic, so it is not the responsibility of humans. In order to disguise this connection between human activity and climate change, corporations in the fossil energy industry such as ExxonMobil have spent a lot of money over the decades and spared little effort, says letter author Wolf von Fabeck from the Solarenergie-Förderverein Deutschland e.V. from Aachen. These dinosaurs had a massive impact on public opinion, and they continue to do so today. And they are successful with it. The “climate deniers” - in short, for people who do not believe that climate change is anthropogenic - are on the up. One climate denier is the US President, another has just been elected in Brazil, and this faction seems to be gaining strength in Germany too, because a climate denier party, the AfD, is the third largest faction in the German Bundestag. One should, says Wolf von Fabeck, make climate denial a criminal offense, because it endangers human life. Here come his arguments, for which there was not enough space in the print reader forum. There was a 50 percent shortened version of his letter to the editor, in which I tried to accommodate the most important things. Here comes the unabridged version as a guest post in the FR blog.

Climate deniers should be punished

From Wolf von Fabeck

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Some energy companies have gained tremendous economic power in the past century through the use of nuclear power, lignite, hard coal, crude oil and natural gas. When in 1965 a warning to US President Lyndon B. Johnson became public that the use of fossil fuels is damaging the climate, Exxon - one of the largest oil companies - had to determine through its own investigations that the scientific warnings were indeed justified. Nevertheless, the group continued the oil business. In 1997 the “New York Times” even published a soothing text about global warming: “Scientists cannot predict with certainty whether temperatures will rise, how much and where changes will take place,” it said. We still don't know what role human-made greenhouse gases could play in warming the planet. It was an Exxon paid ad.

The FAZ of October 24, 2018 ran the headline 20 years later: "Oil giant Exxon sued for false information about climate change". In the meantime, researchers at Harvard University had analyzed 72 scientific articles written by researchers employed by ExxonMobil. They also evaluated other scientific contributions and internal reports and compared them with the statements from 36 paid Exxon advertisements from 1977 to 2014. They published their results in the "Environmental Research Letters". Their verdict was harsh: "Exxon Mobil misled the public about the state of climate research and its effects," wrote study directors Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes in an article for the "New York Times".

But the bad seeds continued to grow. Further "studies" appeared worldwide, the purpose of which was to sow doubts about the research results. In the German-speaking area, EIKE (a so-called “European Institute for Climate and Energy”) stood out with numerous misinformation on global warming on the Internet.
Here, at https://www.eike-klima-energie.eu, every decision-maker can get faked, scientifically disguised information to this day, with which he wants to defend his inactivity against global warming.

Such global misinformation has ruined the climate to such an extent that it is already questionable whether our children or grandchildren will be able to survive the consequences of climate change alive at all. Nevertheless, the old and new climate deniers continue to spread their doubts with impunity under the guise of freedom of expression. And so stubborn politicians can continue to avoid making the necessary changes to the climate-hostile legal framework.

What is meant by “climate-hostile legal framework”? Here are two examples: If a flight to Mallorca or Tenerife is five times cheaper than a train journey to one of the Baltic Sea resorts, then the aviation kerosene is obviously taxed too little. If the construction of electricity storage facilities receives so little government support that it is financially cheaper to continue buying coal or nuclear power, then the missing electricity storage facilities will still not be built. These examples of hundreds of other climate-hostile regulations should suffice, because everyone knows that the population usually chooses the cheaper option. This decision is forced against the ecological conscience by the wallet. In this respect, the climate-hostile legal framework is the real cause. But the politicians responsible for the framework conditions hide behind the climate doubts.

For a few months now there have been the demonstrations under the slogan “fridays for future!” Still it is a desperate call for help from the young people, who in a few decades, when we old people will have died a natural death, under the heat and the suffocating blacks Clouds of smoke from an inextinguishable conflagration or in the mudslides of an insane downpour or in the chaos of a super tornado will perish - if there is no vigorous change of direction now. These youngsters are rightly scared and outraged by the cowardly ignorance of the current governing coalition. We parents and grandfathers will lose the confidence of the younger generation if we do not respond appropriately. A well-fortified democracy cannot accept this development. There is no legal threat of punishment in the penal code - something like this:

“Anyone who doubts or denies climate change in a way that is suitable to disrupt the defense against climate change according to the Paris Climate Agreement and its follow-up agreements, to make it contemptible or to completely prevent it, will be punished with a fine of up to 300 daily rates . In the case of repetition, the penalty is imprisonment ”. We can confidently leave the exact formulation of the threat of punishment to the experts.

Serious climate science is not dependent on such a change in the law, because there is no longer any doubt among climate scientists about the danger in which humanity is suspended. But the science of psychology teaches us that necessary changes in behavior often have to be enforced by legal regulations. There are enough examples of this. The obligation to wear seat belts, the ban on smoking, the speed limit, the ban on incandescent lamps, the ban on the Hitler salute, the ban on denying the Holocaust. Now we need a ban on climate change denial.

And one more thing: the amendment to the penal code must be made quickly. Once the state collapses during the climate catastrophe, it will be too late.

Bronski guest contributions