by Dustin Siggins | March 15, 2014 10:55 am
Seriously. He does:
The earthquake that rocked L’Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.
The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”.
Still, critics of the case in L’Aquila are mistaken if they conclude that criminal negligence should never be linked to science misinformation. Consider cases in which science communication is intentionally undermined for political and financial gain. Imagine if in L’Aquila, scientists themselves had made every effort to communicate the risks of living in an earthquake zone. Imagine that they even advocated for a scientifically informed but costly earthquake readiness plan.
If those with a financial or political interest in inaction had funded an organised campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made, then many of us would agree that the financiers of the denialist campaign were criminally responsible for the consequences of that campaign. I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism.
More deaths can already be attributed to climate change than the L’Aquila earthquake and we can be certain that deaths from climate change will continue to rise with global warming. Nonetheless, climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis.
Gosh, jail time for being critical of what is still an uncertain science — a science being proven more wrong, misleading, dishonest, and harmful each year.
Can we jail politicians and scientists who use climate change rhetoric to make us poorer, and thus harm our ability to grow wealth and be healthier and happier?
Here’s an example: It’s accepted across the political spectrum that ethanol subsidies helped increase starvation in Africa in 2008, when gas prices spiked. It’s also accepted that ethanol causes vehicles to run less efficiently, and that ethanol harms the environment a great deal.
Should those people who support ethanol subsidies be in jail for taking taxpayer dollars for years for their own needs, ignoring the needs of their fellow man?
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