Stephen Hockman QC—which, if you read Rumpole, you know means queer customer—is a European (I can’t say Englishman, because an Englishman would not voluntarily cede his country’s sovereignty to a foreign body) who is proposing to create an International Court of Environmental Justice, whose purpose will be to “punish states that fail to protect wildlife and prevent climate change.”
Isn’t that nice?
Besides providing make-work employment for obscure politicians, “[T]he court would also fine countries or companies that fail to protect endangered species or degrade the natural environment and enforce the ‘right to a healthy environment’.”
It would first create this new “right to a healthy environment and provide a higher body for individuals or non-governmental organisations to protest against an environmental injustice.”
Both Gordon Brown and Judi Dench have come out in favor of this new governing body, so we can guess it’s only a matter of time before it is started.
You might suppose that I, being a self-named climate inactivist and advocate of limited government, would be against this development, but except for one caveat, I am not. Here’s why.
First the caveat. It is true that part of the motivation behind Hockman’s storm-of-the-brain is the child-like idea that anything bad that happens is some humans’ or group of humans’ fault, and that this group should be caught and punished or fined, preferably fined, especially if they are rich.
So, for example, if you had planned an outing expecting sunshine and instead found rain, this rain must be due to evil forces. It is, after all, your right to a healthy environment, and what could be more unhealthy than to be caught out in the rain? Who, therefore, is to blame? Perhaps a corporation does business nearby. Thus, the foul weather must be its fault, because corporations have money, and with money comes temptation and wrongful deeds. Quat erat demonstrandum.
This line of “reasoning” should not come as a shock because we expect nothing less than exactly this form of simple greed from our lawyers, and experience has taught us that its effects can be mitigated or countered by arraying a different set of lawyers against the first, the second group’s greed being sated with fat salaries. The result is something like an equilibrium.
Plus, the feeling that a corporate—or perhaps incorporate—body is responsible for our ills has always been with humanity, so it should come as no surprise that lawyers and politicians are as susceptible to this superstition as ordinary civilians. The rule then, the rule now, the rule will always be somebody must be blamed! We just have to deal with this.
Keeping this caveat in mind, this is why I like creating the new court. In order to punish a group for creating an “unhealthy environment”, a healthy environment must be defined. And in order to “prevent” climate change, climate itself must finally be explicitly defined. The idea of what it means to “change” must also be fully specified right down to the dotted “i”s and crossed “t”s so beloved of bureaucrats.
Isn’t that wonderful? Don’t you see the beauty of this?
Think of it. Right now, believe it or not, there is no legal definition of climate. There isn’t even a “scientific” one. That is, there is no consensus on exactly what climate is. Nobody—and I mean no body—has ever sat down and spelled out exactly, precisely what climate is, what it means for a climate to change, and what an ideal, healthy climate specifically entails.
Oh, sure, there are some vague notions and rules of thumb. For example, climatologists gather data and average it and call the result climate. But what data? From whence is it gathered? What limits? Hourly observations? Daily, monthly, yearly? For how long? What variables should be tracked? Just temperature? Precipitation? Vorticity? Everybody already knows that the idea of a “global mean temperature” is silly and next to useless. Nobody, for example, lives in a “global”. People live in places which have actual hour-by-hour temperatures. Who cares what a “global mean” is, anyway? People deal with actual values not global means.
And what exactly is a “healthy environment”? If you were mad about olives and believed that people should eat little else, then it would be rational to plant more olive trees. Warmer temperatures in some locales where there are now no olive groves, say Michigan, would make it more likely for those trees to grow and flourish, therefore guaranteeing a healthy citizenry and a thicker wallet for you. However, the farmers who grow cherry trees there now would not welcome warmer weather. We have conflict!
I do better in hot, humid weather (I look good in and prefer to wear linen). You might like to and thrive by shoveling snow. We cannot live together, and what is healthy for you is not for me. Nor are all types of weather equally good for all people, or plants, or animals.
If one year sees slightly less rainfall than average (and what is average?), who is to blame? And what is “slightly less”? Because this year has seen slightly less rainfall, has the climate officially changed? My neighbor has seen slightly higher rainfall. Has the climate changed for both of us? Exactly how long does the change have to last for it to become an official change?
Finally, everybody agrees that some change is “natural” and some due to those with money. But how much from each source? I mean, precisely how much. Are Chinese factories causing the sun to shine on Christmas day? Is German manufacturing causing an increase in potato production in Poland by increasing warmth and the nutrient CO2? That would be bad, because more potatoes on the market lower their price, making the production of vodka cheaper, thus increasing drunkenness, liver disease and pancreatic cancer rates.
Legally defining all of these terms to the satisfaction of politicians, actresses, activists, rich people, and citizens will eliminate an enormous amount of useless bickering and debate about climate change that now floods over us. It will also be a next to impossible task, and so it will allow busybodies to be busy bodies for only a small price to the rest of us. This will allow us to forget about “climate change” because we can trust that this new expert body is dealing with it.
It is true that this International Court’s will, in effect, create new forms of taxation, and that it will spend most or all of its time spending the money it has coerced on “studies” and lunches and on creating employment for more creatures like themselves. But like I said above, occasional manias seem to be the natural course of human events from time to time, and we just have to deal with them in the best way we can. And many of the larger excesses of this group will be able to be mitigated by the traditional means. Plus there is some utility in gathering all of the kind of people who go for this kind of activity in one place, where they may more easily be watched and, if finally necessary, dealt with.
Update: see Monday, 8 December’s post on this topic, too.