Credit: Matt Palmer @ Unsplash 

The crime of incitement to hatred and violence is provided for in the Penal Code, is punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 5 years, and consists of the conduct punishable by someone who, through means of public disclosure, provokes or incites the practice of acts of violence, defamation, injury, or threat to persons or groups of people.

I cite this crime as I could cite several others that have come to have a penal configuration in recent decades.

In the wake of all the extreme and catastrophic environmental events with which we have been confronted in recent decades, I have found myself thinking: if crimes like the one cited have been associated with a prison sentence, wouldn't it make sense to define as criminal practices all those statements dedicated to denying climate change, its causes, and effects? After all, we are "only" talking about something that endangers our existence as a human species.

I am well aware that the debate on climate change has been a controversial and often polarised issue. While the overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that human activities have contributed significantly to climate change, some dissenting voices still dispute this view.

I also know that freedom of expression is a central pillar of democratic societies, and many will argue that banning such opinions could set a dangerous precedent for restricting the right to dissenting expression. And they will say more that, for example, instead of criminalising climate change denial, it is more effective to promote education and the dissemination of scientific information.

I'm aware of all that.

But I'm also aware of the emergency and the science. And above all, of the Planet I want to leave to my children and grandchildren. I am part of a generation that has done little to solve these problems, and my conscience today impels me to contribute as little as I can to have the tools to fight this scourge that I express here in just a few pieces of evidence:

  • Rising temperatures and the most recent years are often catalogued as the warmest on record. At the same time, the Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
  • Melting of the Polar Ice Caps and Glacial Ice, leading to sea level rise, threatening coastal communities around the world.
  • Changes in Weather Patterns with more frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as more severe storms, prolonged droughts, and intense heat waves.
  • Oceans absorb some of the extra heat and carbon dioxide, causing increased ocean acidity with an impact on marine ecosystems.

Science adds more and with equal clarity: human activities have played a determining role in the climate change we are witnessing. The collective responsibility to address this challenge is urgent and undeniable. It is time to accept reality and take responsible action for a sustainable future for present and future generations. As Pope Francis said in his recent presence in Lisbon, "Half-measures only serve to postpone the collapse."

Safeguarding everything that must be safeguarded from the point of view of freedom of expression, one of these measures may be to seriously consider the possibility of making the practice of denying this evidence a crime.

Have a great and impactful week!

Nuno Moreira da Cruz
Executive Director at the Center of Responsible Business & Leadership

This article refers to edition 205 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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