The human contribution to global warming ("climate change" when things get cold) is a debate of the ages. Brilliant scientists, politicians and pundits disagree on a countless array of climate-related beliefs. Unless and until climate change hypothesis becomes settled science, rather than a topic of "scientific consensus," the debate will live on.
Unless, of course, the staunchest of global warming believers succeed in forbidding dissent. That's right, some global warming activists - people who want immediate government action - would like to punish skeptics they call climate change "deniers."
The Washington Times recently documented this unthinkable agenda in a story titled "Democratic AGs, climate change groups colluded on prosecuting dissenters, emails show." It presented evidence that shows 16 state attorneys general, and one independent from the Virgin Islands, plan to explore avenues to challenge climate change dissenters.
Four attorneys general, the newspaper reported, have launched investigations into Exxon Mobil. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker has issued subpoenas for 10 years worth of climate change documents and communications from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank that questions the veracity of anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. He issued a subpoena to Exxon Mobil in March that warned the company of the territory's anti-racketeering laws.
The Times reported on a gathering in which the attorneys general were given a secret briefing by Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Matt Pawa of the Climate Accountability Institute. Emails obtained by the Times indicate the attorneys were told of "the imperative of taking action now" and "climate change litigation."
The emails also revealed the secretive nature of the gathering. A March 30 email from Pawa to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's staff told about an inquiry from the Wall Street Journal, regarding his attendance at the conference.
"What should I say if she (the Journal reporter) asks if I attended? No comment?" Pawa asked in an email.
"My ask is if you speak to the reporter, to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event," said an email from Lemuel Srolovic, environmental protection bureau chief for the New York attorney general's office.
In an email to the Times, Pawa denied advocating lawsuits to remedy disagreements about climate change.
The climate is changing. It always has and always will. Humans are probably contributing to that change. Questions remain as to how much, and to what degree of harm. Other questions remain as to what can or should be done by the United States government, cities, counties, states and other countries to mitigate the human role in climate change. What are the costs, versus the benefits. President Barack Obama calls global warming the greatest threat to our country. Others see it as no substantial threat. Countless other questions and disagreements remain regarding this issue. We will resolve them no sooner than we get the planet's 7 billion residents to agree on abortion, gay rights and religion.
If attorneys general plan to use our courts to bully climate change skeptics, as has been reported, they need to knock it off. We have the right to express opinions in this country, no matter how outrageous they may seem. To violate that right, by threat of lawsuits and/or prosecution, is to break this country's most sacred law - the one that protects free speech and the right to challenge authority and conventional wisdom.
The Gazette editorial board