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Today I got one of those emails filled with jokes that lots of folks like to pass around.  The topic was hard times and one joke caught my attention:  Times are so hard that Exxon-Mobil has had to lay off 24 congressmen.  

My response? If only we could be so lucky. Maybe we could get rid of Todd Akin, Billy Long, Sam Graves, Blaline Luetkemeyer and Vicky Hartzler, Missouri’s own House climate denialist squad, all avid students of the oil industry rule book, and, as FiredUp! reported yesterday, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, champing at the bit to vote to deny that climate change is taking place. Perhaps they’ll vote to deny that the sun comes up in the East tomorrow.

I don’t mean to say that all the members of this little group are actually in the employ of oil giants like Exxon – although Luetkemeyer does seem to be auditioning to be one of the official big oil lackeys in Congress. Many of them impress me as quite capable of patting themselves on the back for this vote because they are actually simple enough to buy into the anti-science, energy industry agenda also promulgated by more cynical players, such as our Senator Roy Blunt, who, hard times or no, will probably continue to rake in scads of big-oil money while toeing the line on climate change.  

No matter what their motivation, however, if these people are so willing to take a stand that is likely to have disastrous consequences for those of us who will still be around in twenty years – and which will certainly challenge our children and grandchildren – they ought to have some very explicit skin in the game.  It is one thing to gamble their grandchildren, but another when it comes to mine and yours, not to mention millions of children in nations whose parents never got to lobby know-nothing American politicians about what will happen to their world. Shouldn’t there be some really hard-core consequences for these fools who have decided to ignore or obfuscate scientific findings they and their patrons don’t like?

What I am proposing is that if, within, say, a twenty to thirty year period, starting this year, the predictions of climate science come to pass to such a degree that they can no longer be denied, and there has been no meaningful effort on the part of the U.S. to mitigate those effects, the legislators who stood in the way of mitigation should agree today that they will consent to step up and be tried for crimes against humanity – like the Nuremberg trials, but for climate denialists whose willful political behavior resulted in death and disruption of nations.They should have no problem with committing themselves to this course if they really believe the ersatz arguments of the denialists.

The need for such a contingency occured to me while I was reading an excellent book by the journalist Mark Hertsgaard, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. Hertsgaard, who has been reporting on climate change for the past twenty years, draws upon the findings of climate scientists to paint a picture of the world with which his young daughter will have to cope – and it’s not pretty. As he puts it on his Webpage, we will see “… Chicago’s climate transformed to resemble Houston’s; dwindling water supplies and crop yields at home and abroad; the redesign of New York and other cities against mega-storms and sea-level rise.”

Hertsgaard makes the point that, because of the willingness of clowns like Luetkemeyer, Akin, Hartzler, et al., we have already gone past the point of no return. Drastic climate change will take place and there is nothing we can do about it – except keep it from getting worse by curbing CO2 emissions (mitigation), and preparing our infrastructure to adapt to the changes already in the pipeline (adaptation). If we do nothing, then total disaster. Already, though, no matter what we do, it is a sure thing that our children and grandchildren will inhabit an increasingly difficult environment.

If, as seems likely to be the case, nothing is done, the fools who led nations down the garden path ought to have to pay the price – and if they believe in their actions, they should stand up and put themselves on the line right now and commit to going on trial if they are wrong and their criminal ignorance results in pain, suffering and death. Surely they’ll be willing to put their money, so to speak, where their mouth is. Who wants to join me in asking Akin, Long, Graves, Hartzler, Luetkemeyer, and Blunt to take the pledge that they’ll be willing to personally pay the price if the course they are committing all of us to follow proves to be disastrously wrong?