Dr. James Hansen calls for fossil industry disinformants to be tried for “high crimes”


Twenty years after delivering his landmark testimony to the US Senate declaring a detectable fingerprint for global warming, Dr. Hansen appeared June 23, 2008 before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming chaired by Rep. Ed Markey. In his briefing (here [PDF], and here [MS Powerpoint]), Hansen pleaded for a rapid transition away from carbon-based fuels to avoid total climate catastrophe, and harshly castigated those in the fossil fuel industries responsible for deliberately and methodically spreading untruths and purposely misleading society, thus dangerously delaying an effective response and actions to avert global climatic disruption. The CEOs behind this massive disinformation campaign of the last several decades, he claims, “should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”

Below are key excerpts from Dr. Hansen’s remarks:

  • I argue that a path yielding energy independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible. It requires a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next year…
  • A level of no more than 350 ppm is still feasible, with the help of reforestation and improved agricultural practices, but just barely – time is running out.…
  • Requirements to halt carbon dioxide growth follow from the size of fossil carbon reservoirs.
  • Coal towers over oil and gas. Phase out of coal use except where the carbon is captured and stored below ground is the primary requirement for solving global warming.
  • Oil is used in vehicles where it is impractical to capture the carbon. But oil is running out. To preserve our planet we must also ensure that the next mobile energy source is not obtained by squeezing oil from coal, tar shale or other fossil fuels.
  • Fossil fuel reservoirs are finite, which is the main reason that prices are rising. We must move beyond fossil fuels eventually. Solution of the climate problem requires that we move to carbon-free energy promptly.
  • Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
  • CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term
    consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
    [Emphasis added].
  • Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.
  • If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead. We must demand a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. We must block fossil fuel interests who aim to squeeze every last drop of oil from public lands, off-shore, and wilderness areas. Those last drops are no solution. They yield continued exorbitant profits for a short-sighted self-serving industry, but no alleviation of our addiction or long-term energy source.

This post was developed by CSW Senior Associate Anne Polansky.

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