Justice Department Investigating Climate Skeptics

Published April 25, 2016

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged the Justice Department (DOJ) has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to look into whether climate skeptics’ denial of the theory humans are causing dangerous climate change merits prosecution for fraud.

Lynch’s admission of the Justice Department’s investigation came in response to a question asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that discussed DOJ’s operations on March 9.

In 2015, Whitehouse, among other individuals and groups, called for the Obama administration to investigate companies in the oil and gas industry, trade organizations, nonprofits, and scientists who dispute the Obama administration’s position humans are causing dangerous climate change under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law written and passed to combat the mafia and similar criminal gangs.

Whitehouse pressed Lynch on the matter, comparing the case for civil action against climate skeptics to the civil action the Bill Clinton administration pursued against the tobacco industry for claiming the science behind the dangers of tobacco was unsettled.

Responding to Whitehouse, Lynch said, “This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on.”

Civil Rights Threatened

E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, says just by contemplating such a prosecution the government has undermined the foundations of Western Civilization.

“The threat of such actions to free speech, free inquiry, and the free and vigorous debate that are central to the whole Western understanding of liberty, of intellectual health, and of science is real and ominous,” Beisner said. “America’s Founding Fathers would reject this idea instantly.”

Paul Driessen, senior policy advisor to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, agrees with Beisner.

“Using RICO to shut down debate is an affront to our Constitution and our most basic civil rights,” said Driessen. “That the effort is being driven by a sitting senator, the senior justice officer in America, and climate scientists who have received millions of taxpayer dollars for biased research [and] who are displaying intolerant attitudes toward the scientific method is despicable.”

Driessen views the threat to prosecute skeptical climate scientists as part of a broader war the political left is waging against free-speech rights.

“The left is on a rampage, doing everything it can to shut down free speech, the most essential foundation of an informed, vibrant, thriving democracy,” Driessen said. “It wants to silence anyone who disagrees with it and eradicate the notion there can even be contrary viewpoints, especially with regards to the topic of manmade climate change.”

David Schnare, general counsel for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, says the threat of an actual prosecution of climate skeptics in minimal, but by raising the possibility, Whitehouse and Obama administration officials hope to cow those who disagree with them into silence.

“The Department of Justice is not looking to prosecute anyone, because they don’t have evidence of a predicate crime,” said Schnare. “What DOJ can do is conduct an invasive investigation.

“This is simply one more example of federal harassment of those who disagree with climate alarmism,” Schnare said. “It’s all politics and no law.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.