Is This the End of RICO?

At the risk of being imprisoned on federal racketeering charges, we will admit that we have our doubts about that whole anthropogenic global warming idea. We might eventually be proved wrong, in which case we will humbly admit our culpability in the end of all life on the planet, but in the meantime we don’t see any reason to to make a federal case of it.
At least 20 climate scientists disagree, though, and have written a letter to President Barack Obama urging that he use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to punish any criticism of their theories. Noting that Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has already proposed a similar idea, they ask  for a RICO investigation “of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.” Perhaps they don’t mean us, as we are not a corporation and thoroughly disorganized, and we can swear in any courtroom that our doubts about the whole anthropogenic global warming idea are quite sincere and not meant to deceive, but we still find the scientists’ suggestion rather chilling.
Such a ban on public debate also strikes us as illiberal, and anti-scientific as well. Aside from a few quibbles about the First Amendment and the ramifications of a criminal justice system assuming it can read the minds of those citizens who avail themselves of its rights, the plan doesn’t seem likely to advance our understanding of mankind’s effect on climate or, assuming that mankind does some exert some effect, what to do about. We expect the censorious climate scientists will insist that the science is settled, and their policy prescriptions beyond any reasonable debate, but that’s the same thing the scientific community told Galileo when he was espousing a heliocentric rather than geocentric theory of the universe. Ever since then that tawdry episode was blamed on the Catholic church, which is always more fun, but that some overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion being asserted today was also in on it.
There were a few other dissidents against that consensus then, just as there are more than a few now, and we’re glad their arguments somehow survived the official sanctions that were imposed then, and we’re hopeful the current dissidents’ arguments will fare as well. Even so, we’d rather that the debate proceed without any RICO indictments. If the case for anthropogenic global warming is indeed iron-clad, as those climate scientists insist, they shouldn’t necessary. If those scientists are wrong, as any scientifically skeptical thinker would acknowledge is still a possibility, then the American economy will be needlessly hampered, science will be set back, innocent people will be wrongly persecuted, we’ll have to rely on the outside-our-jurisdiction Germans to for rebuttals, and there won’t be any conceivable way to blame it on the Catholic church.
We note that of the signatories of that letter is Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who once wrote an e-mail to his colleagues, since discovered among the hacked “climategate” e-mails at the University of East Anglia, admitting that “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” and whose thus-far unfulfilled prophecies of more and stronger hurricanes has been criticized as knowingly deceptive. We’re not suggesting he should be hauled into court, but so long as the First Amendment still applies to scientific debates we thought it worth noting.

— Bud Norman

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