Charge Oil Executives with Crimes Against Humanity

Charge Oil Executives with Crimes Against Humanity

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Lewis Braham started this petition to The International Criminal Court

The numbers are staggering: Currently because of climate change the earth is 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That already causes 150,000 unneccessary deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization, and 24 million climate refugees from extreme weather events annually since 2008. At 2 degrees of warming, one study estimates, 150 million more people would die from air pollution. Yet we’re presently on course for a rise of somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius, possibly more—our current trajectory, the UN warns, could even reach an 8 degree increase by this century’s end. At that level, anyone still in the tropics “would not be able to move around outside without dying,” writes David Wallace-Wells in The Uninhabitable Earth.

One million species are now at risk of extinction, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reported recently. By 2100 the oceans may be too hot for phytoplankton, which produce two-thirds of the earth's oxygen, to photosynthesize. The pre-industrial level of atmospheric carbon dioxide was 280 parts per million. We are now at 410 ppm. The last time that was the case, three million years ago, seas were about 80 feet higher. To say this is an existential threat for humanity is not hyperbole: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/08/15/climate-change-burning-down-house/

The fossil fuel industry has known about this threat since the mid-1970s, yet instead of taking steps to ensure everyone's safety has waged an aggressive disinformation campaign to sow seeds of doubt regarding climate science, which has been proven ad nauseum. That disinformation campaign has been successful. “More than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the past three decades,” writes Wallace-Wells, “since Al Gore published his first book on climate.”

It's time to hold oil executives accountable. A recent article by Kate Aronoff in Jacobin magazine made the case that the International Criminal Court or ICC should charge Exxon's erstwhile CEO Rex Tillerson and other fossil fuel executives with crimes against humanity: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/02/fossil-fuels-climate-change-crimes-against-humanity The case could follow the Nuremburg Trials precedent after World War II. Aronoff writes: "One of the best parallels for trying corporate executives for crimes against humanity might be the so-called IG Farben Trials, in which executives of the IG Farben Company — which worked with the Nazis to produce Zyklon B gas, a pesticide used extensively to kill Jews in the Holocaust — were tried before US Military Courts in Nuremberg....Farben executives and plant managers were tried on these and other charges."

Aronoff also exposes the green-washing now occurring in the fossil fuel industry: "But sensing a change in the political weather, fossil-fuel companies have taken on a new double identity. With one hand — or maybe just a few fingers — they espouse their commitment to climate action and even documents like the Paris Agreement. With the other they continually hunt for new markets and planet-wrecking reserves, sending legions of lobbyists into Washington to beef up subsidies and tear up regulations, and fighting even modest policies to rein in their actions."

While such a trial would be unique in international law, the Nuremburg trials were also unique at the time. Large problems deserve large unusual solutions and there isn't a larger one today than climate change. A crimes against humanity case would send a clear message to oil industry executives that persisting in their current behavior will no longer be tolerated by the global community.

This petition is to the ICC and other international courts with crimes against humanity statutes to pursue such a legal action. Given the enormity of such an undertaking, these courts need a nudge from the public and your voice telling them this behavior is criminal and should be adjudicated could convince them.

Years from now, when your children and grandchildren look at you and ask what you did to stop climate change, you can say I tried to make those most responsible for it  stop what they were doing and pay for their actions. Your signature on this petition is a small thing that could really make a difference.

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