Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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President Barack Obama is downright hostile to the free flow of information, open debate, and research contradicting his opinions and the policies he uses to support them.
The most recent evidence for this is testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who seems just as political and beholden to Obama as her predecessor Eric Holder was.
Attorney General Lynch testified that the Department of Justice has discussed pursuing civil action against companies, nonprofits, associations, and scientists who debate whether humans are causing catastrophic climate change, referring the matter to the FBI to determine if it meets the criteria for prosecution, presumably under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a law passed in 1970 to battle organized crime.
The revelation the Obama administration has asked the FBI to investigate people involved in an ongoing scientific debate because they disagree with the president should shock the sensibilities of all Americans.
Obama closed the book on questions related to the theory of man-caused climate change even before he became president. For him, there is no debate; humans’ use of fossil fuels is creating dangerous warming, and the government must do whatever it can to restrict the consumption of oil, natural gas, and coal to prevent an allegedly impending climate disaster. Strange a lawyer should be so certain about a question of science, but there it is.
It was not Obama or Lynch who first broached the idea of prosecuting climate realists for exercising their free-speech rights; that dishonor falls to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who in a May 2015 op-ed, published in the Washington Post, argued the fossil fuel industry is collaborating with conservative think tanks to disseminate research contradicting the scientific consensus on man-made climate change in an effort to discredit climate science and attack environmentalists.
There are a few significant problems with Whitehouse’s argument and the subsequent efforts made by the Obama administration silence their critics in the global warming debate. First, there is the First Amendment. Obama, Lynch, and Whitehouse all swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the First Amendment is pretty clear: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
As has been understood for hundreds of years of U.S. history, the First Amendment protects the rights of individuals, including those who work for universities, think tanks, and even energy companies, to speak freely on issues of public importance, including global climate change. It does not matter if politically connected renewable power interests, influential environmentalist funders, members of Congress, or even the President of the United States disagree with them.
The Obama administration’s attempt to use RICO against climate skeptics presents a number of difficulties for the Obama administration and radical environmentalists, including the fact the truth is an absolute defense against fraud. In order for Lynch to prove the “intent to defraud” required by RICO, the Justice Department would have to prove skeptical scientists and climate researchers are lying when they say the human impact on climate is small and not a crisis, an impossible feat for Lynch.
Evidence of scientific uncertainty is easy to find. In 2015 alone, as documented by the German climate science site No Tricks Zone, approximately 250 peer-reviewed academic articles were published that refute one or more of the many claims made by climate change alarmists. These papers show nature has played a significant role in ongoing global climate change, that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide are improving plant growth and agricultural yields, and, contrary to climate model projections, multiple papers indicate weather extremes are unlikely to increase due to climate change. These articles make clear, individually and collectively, the debate concerning the causes and consequences of climate change is alive and well.
Debating an open scientific question cannot be considered fraud under any reasonable understanding of the term. Debate is the scientific method in action.
It’s not surprising the Obama administration is considering using the force of government to squelch debate on a matter of critical importance to the public. Despite promising to run the most transparent administration in history, secrecy has increased dramatically during Obama’s time in office. In 2014, the Associated Press reported the Obama administration has censored or denied more than 250,000, or about 39 percent, of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it had received since 2009. Obama’s FOIA rejection rate is the highest in U.S. history.
The Obama administration has also prosecuted more people who have leaked government information than all previous presidential administrations combined, securing 526 months of prison time for violators. A total of 24 months of jail time had been served for similar activities under every other presidential administration, going all the way back to the founding of the United States.
When government can dictate which questions are open or closed—in either the political sphere or the scientific sphere—the gulags can’t be far behind.