Given the dire warnings over the threat of global warming, it would be reasonable to expect nearly two decades without a rise in average global temperature to be cause for celebration.
Not so. Instead, it’s a call for more punishing legislation.
WND reported last September efforts by some two-dozen scientists with major U.S. universities to convince President Obama to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – RICO – to prosecute opponents who deny mankind is causing catastrophic changes in the climate.
Now, a California state senator is proposing a law that would make climate “deception” prosecutable for 30 years under California’s Unfair Competition Law, extending the statute of limitations from the current four years, reported InsideClimate News.
The Climate Science Truth & Accountability Act, introduced by state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, would give the California attorney general, 58 county district attorneys and the city attorneys of every city with more than 750,000 people a 30-year window to launch investigations and lawsuits for claimed acts of “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act[s] or practice[s] and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising” related to climate change.
The law could also be used by private citizens showing harm in civil suits and in stockholder suits.
Cases brought under the law are civil, not criminal. Violations can result in large financial penalties.
The legislation springs from a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that claims Exxon Mobil insiders were aware of the negative impact of their product – fossil fuels – on the environment as early as 1977. According to documents, a company researcher told Exxon’s Management Committee, “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon-dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”
Ironically, global cooling was considered the scientific consensus in the 1970s when Exxon Mobil executives allegedly had concerns over global warming.
By the 1990s, Exxon executives were questioning the certainty of the global climate-science community, reported International Business Times: “Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond,” former CEO Lee Raymond said in 1997. The company did not mention climate change in securities filings until 2001.
Those attempting to criminalize climate issues, or at least make them subject to civil prosecution and penalties, cite the claimed change in tone as evidence of intentional deception, something Exxon has denied.
“We unequivocally reject the allegations that Exxon Mobil has suppressed climate-change research,” Exxon’s vice president for public affairs Kenneth Cohen told the New York Times last November.
Already, New York is investigating Exxon Mobil for potential securities fraud, claiming the company hid known climate-change risks from investors who would have made different investment decisions if the company had revealed what it allegedly knew and believed.
“I want to give law enforcement the tools they need to hold people accountable for their actions if that’s where the evidence takes them,” California’s Sen. Allen said of his bill. “Certainly everything we’ve seen suggests there may be a really strong case.”
Allen’s bill summary reads: “Given the environmental, health, and economic impacts that Californians are already paying for as a result of the fossil fuel industry’s many years of public deception and their efforts to block action on climate change, it is important to hold the industry responsible.
“Keeping the statute limited to only four years undermines the state’s ability to hold fossil-fuel companies responsible for their unfair and deceptive practices that extend back well beyond four years, as well as the damages and risks that Californians and everyone else must face for centuries to come.”
While the bill does not change the standard of proof, change due process or require government prosecutors to file charges, extending the statute of limitations makes fossil-fuel companies in the state subject to lawsuits based on the questionable claims of climate scientists for an entire generation.
“If the statute of limitations is extended, that means a now powerful environmental prosecutorial tool will become even more powerful,” said Richard Frank, professor of environmental practice and director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at the University of California, Davis.
“It would open up a much wider window for companies to be held accountable for their conduct,” he said.
The bill, if passed by the Democrat-held Senate and Assembly, could be ready for Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature by late August.