More than 20 years ago, Carl Sagan predicted that Americans would soon be unable to determine "what's true." The educational policies to ensure exactly that outcome were first begun fully 20 years before he made his comment, so that a compliant and largely uncritical public would remain spellbound by their leaders, political and spiritual. And today, in Trump's world of alternative facts and fake news, Sagan's thoughts are echoed by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who said: "It seems to me the people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not." He underscores the issues of belief vs truth, opinion vs fact, and the urgent need to challenge the willful denial of scientific truth:
"When you have people who don't know much about science standing in denial of it, and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy."
"One of the great things about science is that it is an entire exercise in finding what is true. Out of this rises a new emergent truth. [Science] does it better than anything else we've ever come up with as human beings."
"Its not something to say 'I choose not to believe E = MC2' - you don't have that option! An established emergent scientific truth is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us."
Every minute in denial, you are delaying the political solution that should have been established years ago."
And for three decades, in the midst of the dumbing down of America, Big Carbon has known unequivocally that its product is the primary cause of global warming, and during that time has led a campaign to hide this truth from the public. The industry's campaign of denial and disinformation is rightly called an "unparalleled evil." As David Suzuki wrote regarding Exxon's role in this industry-wide deception:
Exxon placed paid opinion articles in the New York Times between 1989 and 2004, at a cost of US$31,000 each. Contrary to the company's own research and internal communications - as well as overwhelming scientific evidence from around the world - the articles argued, among other things, that, "The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil," and, "We still don't know what role man-made greenhouse gases might play in warming the planet."
By its collusion to deceive, Big Carbon has stolen from humanity the precious time needed for remedial action, and has thus placed Earth on a trajectory to disaster. This represents a crime against humanity, and merits for the individuals and organizations involved the same sanctions reserved for war criminals.
The unparalleled evil of the climate crisis is personified by the Koch brothers, who have spent more than $80 million on climate denial front groups: "They have a vast network now, a political network that rivals the other parties. They're bigger than the Republican party and the Democratic party, in their organizing might." Their powerful organizing and disinformation apparatus has been called "The Climate Denial Machine."
Enormous as their influence is, the Koch brothers are one part of a coordinated industry-wide effort fronted by American Petroleum Institute which, as far back as 1998, has written: "Victory will be achieved when average citizens understand uncertainties in climate science." In fact, Big Carbon has taken a page from Big Tobacco's playbook: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the "body of fact" that exists in the mind of general public." And that body of fact is now under direct assault as 45 reduces or eliminates funding for scientific research, disbands scientific advisory groups, and spikes important climate change reports.
The Social Contract The unfolding disaster for humanity posed by the climate crisis - coupled with the broader threat to the planet's biodiversity - is completely at odds with the notion of "the social contract." First proposed by Rousseau in 1762, the social contract posits that the entire population is a sovereign entity, embodying the general will:
"Let us then admit that force [or deception] does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers."
In other words, the ability to coerce is not a legitimate power, and there is no rightful duty to submit to it. In matters of our collective survival, then, in a world of Kochs and Trumps, the general will shall not submit to the amassed fortunes and power of the few who facilitate the extinction of the many. It seems obvious, in this era of ecological threat - 255 years after Rousseau - that a reordering of the social contract is required.
The recognition of this need is growing, just as it is increasingly apparent that the climate crisis is changing the nature of political accountability:
Climate change is creating new challenges for both states and citizens, inevitably forcing a rethinking of existing and evolving social contracts. In particular, the social arrangements that enhance the well-being and security of both present and future generations are likely to undergo dramatic transformations in response to ecosystem changes, more extreme weather events, and the consequences of social–ecological changes in distant locations. The types of social contracts that evolve in the face of a changing climate will have considerable implications for adaptation policies and processes.
As one researcher has said, "we actually have to start rethinking our social contracts to take into account others, and responsibilities to people in distant locations and also in future generations."
Governments have exhibited little capacity to think beyond their own borders, and even less across generations. So what are the prospects for meaningful change? Can governments respond with timely and effective strategies that reflect the true gravity of the crisis? Or is this simply a delusion? Elsewhere on this site, we've shared Chris Hedges' comment: "If we were a sane culture, we would declare a national emergency over climate change." On the contrary, we have yet to embrace a full mobilization that responds to the climate crisis. Rather, our reality is the madness of Trump, tempered ever so slightly by non-binding strategies of mitigation and adaptation. And, as we have suggested elsewhere, government and Big Carbon will collude in the view that the worsening impacts of the climate crisis can be "managed," allowing for what they've also determined to be acceptable levels of loss. As the most recent forecast of global emissions suggests, this business-friendly approach is alive and well, expected to produce a 16 percent increase in CO2 emissions by 2040!
The option of the status quo is therefor untenable. By Rousseau's definition, political (and now economic) power that acts to the detriment of the general will (and now to the detriment of our collective survival) is illegitimate power. A reordering of the social contract must become a primary goal for our future, necessarily taking into account people in distant lands and future generations.
Inter-governmental bodies perhaps offer the best hope for change (granted, Obama has destroyed the currency of both words, but allow us to press on with this notion.) The possible convergence on the international stage of three important actions may yet play a role in the reordering of the social contract. First, the UN Human Rights Commission has adopted a resolution that calls for the protection of human rights from the impacts of climate change. This linkage between human rights and the climate crisis follows previous calls to acknowledge climate change as a matter of human rights. Second, the International Criminal Court announced earlier this year that it will investigate environmental crimes; while there is not yet provision to prosecute ecocide, the court's decision is a welcome step in the right direction. Related to this development, in a recent landmark decision, a Dutch court ruled that the Netherlands must step up its efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. This precedent-setting judgement was argued on the basis of "duty of care," raising hopes - there's that word again - that the courts can require governments around the world to take more effective action on climate change. Finally, the notion of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has become part of the international vocabulary in relation to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. As global warming is more fully linked to human rights and duty of care, so too will the obligation of states to protect populations at risk from the climate crisis.
There are no easy answers, and it seems clear that governments must be forced to honour their responsibilities. And until we become activated, they won't. Neither the courts, national governments, or international bodies will act unless forced to do so by the general will, which must now become a global movement. As Chris Hedges has made clear, "We can choose to be rebels or slaves, and that choice is one the corporate state is powerless to take from us."
On This Page The remainder of this page is devoted to the intriguing notion that environmental law may provide some much needed relief in our struggle for survival. We share a letter by W. Douglas Smith, a long-time member of the U.S. EPA, imploring environmental attorneys to become involved in the struggle. In his work with the EPA, Mr. Smith was acutely aware of the "lies and the knowing and willful deception by a few self-serving sociopaths" against which we are now fighting. Next, an important resource - among many - on litigation in matters related to climate is Climate Change Law, and we reprise an important article by Vivianne Lindbergh, "Global Warming as International Crime." Ms Lindbegh explores in her post "the possibility and desirability of perceiving emission of greenhouse gases as an international crime." As human rights become more fully enmeshed with the climate crisis, such a possibility may align with our need for a reordered - and global - social contract.
We have also attached two subpages that forcefully demonstrate "the lies and the knowing and willful deception by a few self-serving sociopaths" to which Mr. Smith alludes below. The first is devoted to the groundbreaking investigative series by Inside Climate News, "Exxon: The Road Not Taken." The second reprises the report from The Union of Concerned Scientists, "The Climate Deception Dossiers."
Read both, and become activated.
A Crime Against Humanity on a Planetary Scale
In early 2016, a long-time member of the U.S. EPA shared a letter he wrote to several environmental attorneys with whom he had worked, hoping "to find a legal way to prosecute those deceiving the public about global warming, climate change, and the consequences for the future of civilization." The text of this letter should find its way to all jurors
by W. Douglas Smith...
We have got to find a way to stop the lies and the knowing and willful deception by a few self-serving sociopaths. Most of civilization has moved so far away from the natural world that it no longer associates water, soil, planetary systems, the climate with day-to-day life. Rapid urbanization only increases the schism between the sciences and culture. The fact remains, the climate impacts the bottom as well as the top of the entire food chain in the biosphere.
Only a small difference in temperature and climate can make a dramatic difference in regional ecology. The difference between the ecology of Eastern and Western Washington state; or Seattle and San Francisco is only about 3℉ in mean temperature. Science is telling the world that we are dashing right past 3.6℉ (2℃) and headed toward 7.2℉ (4℃) or more, as if that only means a sunny day at the beach. This summer we hit 120℉ near Walla Walla, Washington and beat the old record by 7℉.
Global warming isn’t uniform. The Middle East already hits 125℉ to 130℉ in much of the region. The best model projections indicate that it will be reaching 130 to 140℉ before mid-century. People simply can’t live at those temperatures.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) reports that the Arab Spring began when global grain prices exploded. The DoD made the connection between global grain price increases and a heat wave, fires and a 40 percent loss in Russia’s wheat crop.
People look to their governments when emergency situations arise. Failed states, and there are a growing number, can’t help them. How many meals would you have to miss before you acted out, hit the streets in protest, or worse? Millions are on the move today. Hundreds of thousands have died and many times that will die in the future without adequate, affordable food and water.
To quote myself, “When people don’t have food and water they tend to get rowdy.”
The climate not only determines what crops can be grown, but where rain falls and how much. People get their milk and bread from the market, but it actually comes from a habitable climate, rich soil and abundant water. There is a reason scientists use the term “food chain.” If you break one link, the entire system changes. Those changes are permanent and the ecosystem never, ever, reverts back to what it was.
Let’s look at our largest ecosystem, the oceans. The oceans absorb carbon dioxide, but that turns into carbonic acid. Carbonic acid erodes the carbon in the exoskeletons of plankton, krill, corals and mollusks at the bottom of the food chain. We have lowered the pH of the world’s ocean an average of 30 percent. The rate of pH change is faster than many species can adapt to or evolve. Phytoplankton and zooplankton have a symbiotic (mutually beneficial interdependency) relationship. Without krill, we lose food for small fish. No Krill, no food chain - no Salmon, Tuna, Cod and so on.
There is one other significant fact that people tend not to think about. Phytoplankton convert solar energy into tissue. In this process of photosynthesis, they use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Roughly 28 percent of Earth’s atmospheric oxygen comes from forests, but 70 percent comes from marine plants. If we over-saturate the oceans with carbon dioxide, we are destroying the single largest contributor of oxygen to the air we breathe.
You were two of the best environmental attorneys I ever worked with. When you and I discuss crimes against humanity, we are actually looking at crimes against the entire planet and systems that support life as we know it. We give tickets for spitting on the sidewalk or smoking because it threatens public health. I find it tragically ironic that we find it so difficult to find a way to prosecute crimes against humanity and the self-serving lies against anthropogenic global warming and the climate changes it causes. This isn’t just crimes against humanity. It is threatening the entire planet. It is biocide on a planetary scale.
We must stop this suicidal insanity and the intentional lies driving civilization to extinction. How long can you hold your breath?
Written by W. Douglas Smith, first published in Planet Experts, January 5, 2016
Global Warming as an International Crime
by Viviane Lindbergh...
Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will start investigating environmental crimes. In a policy document it was stated that the Court would have more attention for cases where ‘destruction of the environment’ is the cause or result of a crime. It is not clear though what ‘the environment’ is exactly. From the context it seems like this term is directed at crimes that show immediate damage on the short term, such as oil spills, or dumping toxic waste into the environment. However, there is speculation (some examples: 1, 2, 3) about its applicability to phenomena that generally show damage only in the long term, like excessive emission of greenhouse gases (namely CO₂). Climate change due to CO₂ emissions is a clear example of a transnational issue. Not only does the problem cross national borders, it can also touch upon many different fields of law, and other disciplines as well, because the legal developments are strongly driven by scientific revelations.
This blog post examines the possibility and desirability of perceiving emission of greenhouse gases as an international crime. Two main questions will be discussed. Question A: should climate change be treated as a human rights issue? And question B: Should it be criminalized by the ICC? In an attempt to answer these questions, first, the functioning and impact of the ICC will be discussed. Second, the connection between human rights and climate change will be discussed. Third, different theoretical human rights constructions will be described. Finally, criminalization of the issue will be examined.
In this blog post, the term climate change is used to describe only the climate change that is caused by humans (unless stated differently). Furthermore, the focus is on emission of greenhouse gases like CO₂ as the cause of climate change.
Influence of the International Criminal CourtThe ICC applies rights that are laid down in the Rome Statute. It aims to protect against some of the most serious human rights violations, like murder, torture and slavery (all committed on a systematic basis). The Statute has four categories of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. The ICC aims to prosecute the individuals that are most responsible for a crime. For example, in case of a war crime, the leader of a group would be prosecuted, and not an individual soldier.
The ICC does not replace the national justice systems. It will act only when national criminal justice systems do not prosecute cases of the crimes laid out in the Statute. Also, the Court does not have its own enforcement mechanisms, so it relies on the different countries when investigating crimes. The Court cooperates with the UN, but is not dependent of it. Since its ratification in 2002, the ICC has closed five cases. The ICC has been criticized for the low number of cases. Also, some say that the Court has a bias against African countries, since these countries are most often investigated. Because of this, multiple countries are threatening to leave. These developments are harmful to the ICC, but for now, many countries still acknowledge the legitimacy of the Court.
This image by the ICC shows the state parties to the Rome Statute. In 1998 the Rome Statute was adopted by 120 states. The ICC was established in 2002, when the Statute was officially ratified by 60 states.
The connection between human rights and climate change In this chapter, first, the philosophical connection between human rights and climate change will be discussed, and then some of the specific human rights that could be at stake will be presented.
American professor Edith Brown Weiss has laid out three principles about intergenerational responsibility. The principles are aimed at protecting the rights of future generations, and were later adopted in multiple UN resolutions. The first principle is that each generation has the obligation to conserve the diversity of natural and cultural resources. Secondly, every generation should keep the planet in a condition that is no worse from how they received it. Thirdly, each generation should provide all people with rights to access the legacy of earlier generations, and should also preserve this access for future generations. About the reason for sustainable policy regarding the earth, Weiss mentions: “The natural system is not always beneficent. Deserts, glaciers, volcanoes and tsunamis are hostile to humans, but we alone among all other living creatures, have the capacity to significantly shape our relationship with this system. We can use its resources on a sustainable basis or we can degrade the system, and destroy its integrity. Because of our capacity for reason we have a special responsibility to care for it” (Weiss, 1992, p. 20).
A more philosophical rationale behind intergenerational responsibility can be found when applying a thought experiment formulated by John Rawls to this principle of intergenerational responsibility. The thought experiment is based on a hypothetical situation where a group of people have the task to design the society they will later live in. During the decision making process, the individuals are behind a ‘veil of ignorance’, which implies that they do not know what position they will later fulfill in the society. Their race, economic position, gender, and other variables are unknown to them. The idea is that in this situation, the group will design a society that holds a certain minimum standard of living for all people, since otherwise the individuals themselves have a chance of ending up in a very disadvantageous position. In the experiment, individuals will not (as they often do) seek to maximize the advantage of a few individuals, but rather they will want to provide certain rights to everyone. Wijdekop (2014) suggests that this thought experiment could be expanded to multiple generations. The result would then be that the group would want every generation to be able to enjoy certain rights, instead of maximizing the freedom of only one generation, because it is unknown in what generation they will end up. Thus, every generation would have to choose for example, to preserve natural resources and not to pollute the water, because these actions would be extremely disadvantageous for later generations.
There are many international treaties in place that could deal with climate change. Here, the focus will be on the Rome Statute, since this is the treaty the ICC is based on. Also, we will briefly look at some of the more general fundamental rights that could be at stake.
Harming the environment on itself is not a crime laid down in the Rome Statute. However, most crimes that the Statute aims to deter can be executed in many different ways. Take the example of the crime against humanity of systematic murder. This could very well be executed in a way that harms the environment. The environment is protected in an indirect manner. Only when people are harmed, the Court can take action. More in general, some basic human rights are at stake because of the effects of climate change. First of all, the right to life. Effects of climate change could be that there will be more natural disasters such as storms and heatwaves. These weather extremes can be dangerous, especially in developing countries lacking the resources to adequately protect their citizens. Another threat is that rising sea levels could force people out of their home. Furthermore, heat waves could cut off food supply, and by this deprive people of their basic needs. Many of these rights are specifically defined in international treaties, and are not just negative obligations, but also positive ones, which require the member states to intervene. For example the right to life, as laid down in article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, does not just prohibit that governments cause the death of their citizens, it also creates an obligation for the governments to protect the lives of the people on their territory.
Human rights can also be at stake when preventional measures against climate change are imposed. This mostly has to do with the loss of freedom of citizens. Also, imposing climate change measures could burden companies that rely strongly on certain production processes. More in general, every rule that is imposed by the government limits the freedom of the individuals and companies. However, it can very well be argued that the consequences of climate change are much more radical than the consequences of imposing regulation. After all, natural disasters, floods, drought, all phenomena that can cost many lives, or can force groups of people to leave their homes, so limiting freedom might in this case be proportionate.
Different fundamental rights perspectives In the following paragraphs, several theoretical frameworks for using human rights to battle climate change will be discussed.
The first, and probably most obvious approach would be to acknowledge that climate change causes harm to humans in the long term, and it should thus be prohibited as a fundamental right. This approach is taken in many international treaties that are already in place. Examples of such treaties are the Rome Statute and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). These treaties protect certain rights in a general sense, which means that the reason for the violation of a right is not relevant per se. From this it follows that if the damage of climate change caused by CO₂ emission is severe to humans, this would result in a human rights violation. There are a couple of conditions that have to be met here. First of all, CO₂ emission by an individual or organization has to be the cause of global warming. Second, global warming has to cause or enhance unwanted environmental phenomena, like drought, rising sea levels or natural disasters. Third, the result of global warming has to be harmful for humans.
A different approach would be to grant a legal status to the earth itself. In 2010 Bolivia passed a bill that grants fundamental rights to the earth, this was the so called Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. This law protects, among other things, the right of the Earth to be free from pollution, and the right to have clean water and air. A possible human rights basis is to grant rights to the earth itself. Granting rights to non-human beings is not that unusual, many countries (for example the Netherlands) have adopted rules in order to protect animal rights.While this might sound like a far-fetched idea at first, it is quite similar to the first approach. In fact, it would be a more direct prohibition of contamination and pollution of water and air. When using this approach, first of all, it must be proven that one person or actor has caused damage to the environment (for example, by emitting an extensive amount of CO₂). Secondly, it has to be demonstrated that the emission causes visible harm to the environment. The third step, harm to humans, is not necessary when a legal status would be appointed to the earth itself. However, it would always be necessary to appoint a representative of the earth, since it is otherwise not a being with legal personality.
Similarly, it has been proposed to add ‘ecocide’ as a fifth international crime. Ecocide is the destruction of the ecosystem in any significant way. During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the United Nations International Law Commission (ILS) considered adding ecocide to the predecessor of the Rome Statute. This, however, did not happen, partly because there were problems with the definition of the crime. For example, the question rose whether someone could be held criminally liable for the crime, without having intent.
A third possibility could be to perceive pollution itself as a human rights violation. This is an even more direct way of banning these actions. It would then not be the damage that causes an act to be unlawful, but the act (in this case: of emitting CO₂) itself. A problem with this approach could be that it calls for a concrete maximum of emissions that would have to be determined beforehand. This would be almost impossible since many different countries are involved, and they all have very different economic systems and ideologies. A market-based system may be a solution to this. An existing example of this is the Emissions Trading System (ETS) in the EU (and other countries). In this system, individuals or companies are required to buy a certificate for each ton of CO₂ that they will emit. The certificates are given out or auctioned, and can then be traded. The total number of permits per year is fixed, and it decreases in time. This creates a mechanism where companies have an incentive to cut emissions, but they can also choose to spend a lot of money on permits, which means that they indirectly finance the reduction of emissions from other organizations.
Finally, another approach could be that protection against global warming should not be a human right at all. Global warming is a natural process that takes place, even without humans. Humans are merely enhancing it. The effects are for a great part unknown, and mostly show in the long term. Even though estimations are made about future climate change, much about it is still unknown, and we can never fully predict the future. This raises the question whether the government, or international community, should really have the obligation to stop climate change. Secondly, an issue with human rights in general is that they go against democracy. Although human rights are generally established through democratic processes, the idea is that they are static, or absolute rights. The rights form a basis that is meant to protect every individual in society, even if the majority has a different opinion. Because of this, there is always a tension between fundamental rights and democracy. Thus, it could be argued that we should apply human rights in a very reserved manner, in order to keep them legitimate.
Criminalization Global warming could very well be considered a human rights issue. The follow-up question is whether it would be a good idea to criminalize the issue through an international court.
Criminalization of causing climate change may sound like a good idea in theory, but would it be enforceable in practice? We will focus on the first approach (based on the principle of harm to humans) described in the previous chapter, in order to set out some practical difficulties. In order to convict a person or actor for a crime, a couple of aspects have to be proven, two of which will be discussed here. First of all, there has to be harm to humans because of the phenomenon. Secondly, there has to be a causal link between the damage and the actions by an individual or group. These two requirements have long been a hurdle in climate change cases, but recent cases, most notably Urgenda against the Dutch government, have shown that these requirements are not necessarily a problem.
In the case of Urgenda against the Dutch government, it was concluded that the Netherlands was committing a tortious act by not taking adequate measures against climate change.In the Urgenda case, the claim was that the Dutch government had committed a tort, because it was not doing enough to stop climate change by limiting emissions. Regarding the damage, the court first of all pointed out that the negative effects of climate change are already showing in the Netherlands, and that if global emissions (including those of the Netherlands) do not decrease, these effects will become worse, and the damage is imminent. Furthermore, the State has a duty of care, and should contribute to the prevention of climate change. Regarding the causality, the court concludes that even though Dutch greenhouse gas emissions are only part of the cause of climate change, they still contribute to it, and thus there is a causal link. The final conclusion in this specific case was that the Netherlands had indeed committed a tort. Apparently, proving damage and a causal link is certainly not impossible. It does have to be kept in mind that Urgenda was not about criminal law, but about tort law, and criminal law tends to have stricter criteria. However, damage (or harm) and causality are relevant in both areas of the law. Also, the state has a different status than a private party, since it has the duty to care for its citizens. Because of this, it would be easier to hold a state (criminally) responsible in an international context, than a private organization.
Even though there are practical difficulties, it would certainly seem possible to convict someone through international criminal law. However, it might not be preferable to criminalize the issue. Climate change is a highly political issue, and one that is not always taken seriously by the public and politicians (two examples: In the recent presidential elections in the US, many people voted for Donald Trump, who had openly denied climate change. Secondly, in the Netherlands the PVV is one of the largest political parties, and they have shown to oppose many policies that aim to mitigate climate change). Convicting persons because of excessive CO₂ emission might give the ICC less legitimacy as the issue is not generally accepted politically in every country. This could be a reason for states to leave the ICC, especially those that were already considering leaving. Since the ICC does not have its own enforcement mechanisms, criminalization on such a great scale will only work if in the states involved it is generally agreed upon that a certain right should exist. It is the question whether this is the case with protection against long-term climate change.
Conclusion It is clear that climate change could violate individuals’ fundamental rights, such as the right to life and shelter. There are a number of different human rights approaches that could be taken. The focus could be on harm directed at humans, the Earth itself, or banning specific actions in order to protect the environment. Granting rights to the Earth is a slightly different approach from how laws are structured now, but it could still work. Mostly because within this type of legal framework, it is not needed to prove that humans are harmed by a certain action. Most practical would probably still be to consider climate change cases as harmful to humans, since many international human rights laws are based upon this notion. There are some problems that arise with proving damage and causality when using this approach, but recent court cases in other areas of the law have shown that even within the current judicial way of thinking, there is the possibility for proving (in a judicial sense) the effects of greenhouse gas emission. A larger problem with criminalization could be that there might not be enough support among the citizens of the state parties of the ICC to start convicting climate criminals. The effect could be that this makes the Court less legitimate. On the other hand, the development that the ICC broadens its view to environmental crimes could have the effect that their reputation of having a bias against African countries will improve, since they will have the possibility to convict different types of offenders. Furthermore, criminalization by a Court that has support from all over the world could be a strong signal to the state parties that climate change is an important issue. A positive side effect could be that this makes it politically easier for national governments to establish legislation around the issue. Whether the announcement by the ICC, that they will start investigating environmental crimes, will also be applicable to a more long-term problem like climate change, is unclear. However, it is quite conceivable that it can be, as there have been successful court cases in other areas of law recently (like the Urgenda case in the Netherlands). So it might not be such a crazy idea to make excessive pollution an international crime, keeping in mind that the long-term effects of climate change could be radical to the earth and its inhabitants.
Sources Linked sources in text, in order of appearance: