Essay by Eric Worrall
Vanuatu has urged Australia to join its push to have the United Nations International Court of Justice rule that states are “obliged to use all the means at its disposal in order to avoid activities” which lead to more CO2 emissions.
Vanuatu calls on Australia to back its UN bid to recognise climate change harm
Pacific islands urge new Labor government to support push for international court of justice to issue climate advisory opinion
Australia’s new Labor government has been called on to prove its commitment to climate action and support for Pacific countries by backing a campaign led by Vanuatu to see international law changed to recognise climate change harm.
In a letter to the prime minister sent by leading Pacific and Australian NGOs, shared exclusively with Guardian Australia, the groups urged Anthony Albanese to support Vanuatu’s campaign for the international court of justice to issue an advisory opinion on the question of climate change.
“These demands present a great opportunity to your government to demonstrate its willingness to listen to Pacific island voices and to prove that you are prepared to act on the existential threat of the climate crisis in a manner that offers hope to future generations of Australians and Pacific Islanders,” said the letter, which was sent on behalf of groups including 350 Pacific, Amnesty International Australia, Oxfam Pacific and the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/20/vanuatu-calls-on-australia-to-back-its-un-bid-to-recognise-climate-change-harm
Why am I concerned by the push for the United Nations to recognise climate harm under the no harm rule? The wording of the law.
“[a] State is thus obliged to use all the means at its disposal in order to avoid activities which take place in its territory, or in any area under its jurisdiction, causing significant damage to the environment of another State.”
The “No harm” rule was originally developed in the wake of the Trail Smelter Case, a Consolidated Mining smelter in Canada whose toxic sulfur fumes were being blown into the United States.
If the ICJ recognises climate change under their no harm rule, then nation states will be obligated to “use all the means at its disposal” to prevent activities which lead to more CO2 emissions.
Could this “use all means” principle extend to silencing skeptics?
I want to make it clear at this point, I’m not a lawyer. So my interpretation could be wrong.
My limited understanding, for US skeptics at least, the first amendment provides some protection. But there are limits. US citizens aren’t allowed to make public speech which advocates unlawful violence against other citizens. People can be sued or criminally prosecuted for the harm their public speech causes, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire, or for libel, telling lies in public which harm the reputation and earnings of their victim.
My concern is, if climate change is recognised under the no harm principle, then telling people there is no problem, when the ICJ has recognised there is a problem, could be interpreted as spreading falsehoods to deliberately put people in harms way. Just as yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre puts people in harms way if there is no fire, so telling people there is no fire when the court has recognised the fire is real, could equally be interpreted as placing people in harms way.
Obviously the UN has no direct authority, for now, over the lives of citizens. But would someone like President Biden defend the rights of a US citizen against a UN International Arrest Warrant, issued by a party which claimed a WUWT article caused international harm, by encouraging the burning of more coal? Would deep green Prime Ministers like Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau or Anthony Albanese (Australia) stand up for the rights of a climate skeptic?
In the USA, there is a strong push to censor climate skepticism. In April this year, President Obama claimed the first amendment does not apply to the online censorship of climate skeptics. In Australia, doctors lost the freedom to criticise government policy, after some doctors expressed alarm at Covid vaccine side effects – a particularly vicious attack on freedom, given that Chinese suppression of doctors and medical free speech was what led to the original Covid outbreak escaping from Wuhan.
For now we are free to speak, thanks to laws enacted by people who mostly lived long ago who valued freedom, who were much wiser than today’s politicians. But that freedom is under attack. At any moment a new interpretation of the law, or failure to respect human rights, could crush our freedom to criticise climate policy insanity, or other government policies.
Those who would crush dissent are continuously looking for a loophole, a way to silence opponents, which is applicable within existing legal frameworks of laws which are meant to protect our freedoms – as Obama’s April speech in my opinion demonstrated. Legal recognition of climate harm is a potential route to regulation and suppression of climate speech. An abuse of the ICJ No Harm Rule could be just what they are looking for.