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Editorial: What’s safe to say about climate change?

The Bulletin – August 31, 2016…

We would appreciate it if Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would tell us what we are supposed to say about climate change.

Her office has signed on to an agreement with 16 other attorneys general to potentially conduct investigations, including examining “representations made by companies to investors, consumers and the public regarding fossil fuels, renewable energy and climate change.”

Perhaps Rosenblum’s office could provide all companies in Oregon with a list of talking points and opinions on climate change that won’t make them subject to state investigation.

Is it OK to say there is debate about climate science? Is it OK to say there is uncertainty about how much of a role humans play in climate change? Is it OK to say you don’t believe Bend’s climate change ordinance is going to change the climate?

The agreement among the attorneys general was born in part out of the efforts of Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general and another signatory on the agreement. He got Peabody Energy, a large coal producer, to agree to disclose more information to investors about its financial risks. And Schneiderman is investigating whether Exxon Mobil lied in the past to investors and the public about climate change. Attorneys general have subpoena power that gives them the ability to vacuum up a company’s internal documents.

Rosenblum’s office signed on to the joint agreement on April 29. Her office declined this week to say if it was investigating anyone.

Rosenblum did say in a statement in March that climate change in Oregon is real. “My office is committed to working with other state Attorneys General to address the issue, and we will continue to push for and defend stronger federal efforts,” she said. “If we don’t act now, it may soon be too late.”

But that statement evades the important issues at stake in these investigations. What is righthink about climate change? Can the opinions of a company be held as criminal despite the First Amendment? To what extent must companies disclose risks to their businesses from climate change? Is this really about squashing dissent to climate change orthodoxy?

It’s a crazy idea that Rosenblum may be deciding what can be debated about debatable issues.

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