To some, this seems ridiculous. To others, however, it is eminently reasonable. Let me explain why the charges are justified, and why Rex Tillerson.
The Case for Prosecution
In a post on Celsias.com, I laid out the case:
If climate change can reasonably be expected to cause severe consequences, including large-scale loss of material goods, wealth, land, livelihood, and life; and
If any person intentionally conceals the extent of the consequences or their likelihood of occurring; or
If any person intentionally prevents action to forestall those consequences;
Then, regardless of motivation, he surely commits a crime against humanity and deserves to be tried accordingly.*
Given that there is considerable evidence in favour of climate change occurring, that it is dangerous and will only get more so, that Exxon has given substantial contributions to organizations and individuals whose job it is to obscure the truth about climate change, and that Rex Tillerson has been the responsible person at Exxon during the time of the contributions, I believe there is sufficient evidence to charge Rex Tillerson with crimes against humanity.
The prosecution could call virtually any climate scientist working in the field today.
Mr. Tillerson’s richly compensated defence team could only counter with paid shills possessing highly dubious credentials. Some previously worked with the tobacco companies to conceal the truth about the danger of cigarette smoking. Many still do.
Why Rex Tillerson
As cited above, Tillerson was and is the man in charge at ExxonMobil, the responsible party. Tillerson has also made no secret of his opposition to doing anything about global warming.
Still, why him in particular? Why not go after Steve McIntyre or Fred Singer, who are do the actual denying?
The reason is simple: to kill the beast you must cut off its head. The individual deniers have the power they do only because they have been backed by large corporations like ExxonMobil. Cut the funding and the beast will wither. Cut down a denier and another will sprout in his place.
While other corporations have funded denial – see the excellent Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by Jim Hoggan for a more complete accounting – many stopped their funding a few years ago. ExxonMobil continues to fund denial, and continues to lie about doing so.
To set an example, you don’t go after the small fry, you fry the big fish. Then all the other big and little fish are warned. Tillerson is the biggest fish in the denial cesspool. Putting him on trial would likely dry up almost all funding and support for deniers; a conviction surely would.
Who Should Bring the Charges Against Tillerson
In an honest world, the American government would have done so a long time ago. In reality, the U.S. government is heavily influenced, one might say “bought,” by monied interests, with Big Oil among the most monied and influential.
The other developed nations could do so, but I think everyone is afraid of going after the CEOs. They are too influential in the media, campaign donations, country clubs, and so forth. Many Western politicians expect to walk out of politics and into a plum corporate gig someday, so are unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them.
That leaves the poor countries. I suggested Maldives, which certainly has reason to do so – Maldives will cease to exist thanks to rising seas – but any developing nation could do so. Better, the G77 group of developing nations should do so, whether the United Nations agrees or not. If the United States can invade Iraq without UN approval to secure its oil supply, then surely Bangladesh, Maldives, or the whole G77 can charge Rex Tillerson with crimes against humanity for sinking them.
* I realise that the charge of crimes against humanity applies only to “a government or a de facto authority,” but this is the other end of the stick that corporate leaders picked up when they decided to make it their business to “influence” governments. Corporate CEOs become the “de facto authority.” Welcome to being responsible for your actions.