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Both in the United States and internationally, some scientists and lawyers are advocating courts settle climate science disputes and punish climate skeptics. The Guardian (UK) reports Phillipe Sands, director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at University College London, recently told an audience that the United Nations should request the International Court of Justice to settle the scientific dispute over the human cause and consequences of climate change, thus paving the way for future legal cases to force governments to act to prevent catastrophic climate change. According to Sands, since bodies such as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have concluded climate change is underway and caused by humans, “One of the most important things an international court could do – in my view it is probably the single most important thing it could do – is to settle the scientific dispute,” Sands said. “A finding of fact on one or more of these matters [such as whether climate change is man-made], or indeed on other pertinent matters, would be significant and authoritative and could well be dispositive on a range of future actions …”
Meanwhile in the U.S. on September 1, a group of 20 climate scientists signed a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren requesting they use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to investigate corporations and other organizations “that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.” The list of signatories includes several members of the National Academy of Sciences and numerous IPCC authors.
Judith Curry responded strongly, pointing out the material cited as evidence of a criminal conspiracy between skeptical scientists and industry, including the movie/book Merchants of Doubt, has been widely discredited. Curry notes there is no consensus concerning the causes of climate change, the dangers it poses, or the appropriate responses to it. Curry concludes by condemning the scientists signing the RICO letter: “What you have done with your letter is the worst kind of irresponsible advocacy, which is to attempt to silence scientists that disagree with you by invoking RICO. It is bad enough that politicians such as Whitehouse and Grijalva are playing this sort of political game with science and scientists, but I regard it as highly unethical for scientists to support defeating scientists with whom you disagree by such methods.”
Curry closes saying climate scientist Peter Webster did not exaggerate when he wrote an email to one of the letter’s authors, “‘You have signed the death warrant for science.’”