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snow Rochester NY Getty Images/Guy Solimano snow Rochester NY Getty Images/Guy Solimano  

US college professor demands imprisonment for climate-change deniers

An assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail.

The professor is Lawrence Torcello. Last week, he published a 900-word-plus essay at an academic website called The Conversation.

His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a “campaign funding misinformation.” Such a campaign, he argues, “ought to be considered criminally negligent.”

Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, explains that there are times when criminal negligence and “science misinformation” must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says, is one of those times.

Throughout the piece, he refers to the bizarre political aftermath of an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, which saw six scientists imprisoned for six years each because they failed to “clearly communicate risks to the public” about living in an earthquake zone.

“Consider cases in which science communication is intentionally undermined for political and financial gain,” the assistant professor urges.

“Imagine if in L’Aquila, scientists themselves had made every effort to communicate the risks of living in an earthquake zone,” Torcello argues, but evil “financiers” of a “denialist campaign” “funded an organised [sic] campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made.”

“I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism,” Torcello asserts.

Torcello says that people are already dying because of global warming. “Nonetheless, climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis.”

As such, Torcello wants governments to make “the funding of climate denial” a crime.

“The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.”

Torcello, the Ph.D.-holding philosophy professor, then manages to conflate the standard of criminal negligence with the much lower standard of garden-variety negligence under civil law.

Torcello also tries to preemptively rebut criticism that his attempt to silence climate change skeptics with the threat of criminal penalties is unconstitutional due to the First Amendment.

“We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised [sic] campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions,” he argues.

“It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems.”

On March 13, 2014 (the day Torcello’s screed was published), the high temperature was 18 degrees Fahrenheit in Rochester, N.Y., the city for which Rochester Institute of Technology is named.

In the latest U.S. News rankings, Rochester Institute of Technology (annual cost of attendance: $45,602) comes in as the seventh-ranked university in the North region, two spots ahead of the University of Scranton. The Upstate New York school is notable for its focus on engineering and business as well as an unsightly, windswept campus. (RELATED: U. GLY: The least attractive college campuses in America)

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