The attorneys general of New York and California are on the warpath. They’re fed up with dissent over the science and politics of global warming, and they’re ready to investigate the liars. California’s Kamala Harris and New York’s Eric Schneiderman have Exxon in their sights, and they’re trying to pry open the books to see whether the corporation properly warned shareholders “about the risk to its business from climate change.” Not to be outdone, Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed that the federal Department of Justice has “discussed” the possibility of civil suits against the fossil-fuel industry. The smell of litigation is in the air.
Some people are worried about little things like the “First Amendment,” “academic freedom,” and “scientific integrity.” Not me. I hate unscientific nonsense. So if Harris and Schneiderman are up for suing people who’ve made piles of cash peddling exaggerations and distortions, let’s roll out some test cases. I’ve got three ideas:
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Ten years have passed. Is there a scientific consensus that the world has reached a “point of no return?” No? Gore’s documentary grossed almost $50 million worldwide. I’d suggest that number as a starting point for damages. But of course you’ll need to subpoena all his business records and communications. We wouldn’t want him hiding his ill-gotten gains, and goodness knows that public schools could use some cash.
Broadcasting from the heart of New York, Good Morning America claimed that in 2015 milk would cost almost $13 a gallon, gas would be more than $9 a gallon, “flames [would] cover hundreds of square miles,” one billion people would be malnourished, and Manhattan would be flooding — all because of climate change.
ABC is a for-profit company, part of the Walt Disney conglomerate. Last year, Disney held approximately $88 billion in assets. Some of those assets represent the ill-gotten gains from exaggerations and fearmongering used to stoke public hysteria and increase ratings for a flailing morning news-and-lifestyle broadcast.
United States v. United Nations: In 2007, the chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajenda Pachauri, said, “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. . . . What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
The IPCC has received tens of millions of dollars while hyping the threat of global warming. While its current factual predictions can’t be tested until the dates pass, Pachauri’s statement is patently false and at odds with “settled science.” And we all know that settled science settles everything.
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These three cases are just the start. Environmental scaremongering is a lucrative business, and the evidence of exaggeration is everywhere. If Lynch, Harris, and Schneiderman file their first lawsuits now, they can file a second round by Christmas, when the season’s first snowflakes provide the next set of litigation targets — all the hysterics who predicted the end of snow.Or maybe — just maybe — these liberal attorneys general aren’t truly interested in the truth and are instead radical ideologues hoping to shut down dissent. Perhaps they’re trying to advance their political careers by appeasing the social-justice Left and further establishing the new pagan religion of environmentalism. There is a chance that we can’t trust the government to be fair.
In that case, forget everything I said. A nation can’t sue its way into clarity, but it can sue its way into oppression. The First Amendment still matters. Rather than settle scores, let’s extend the debate.
— David French is a lawyer and a staff writer for National Review.