08/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

I Find the Defendant

Whenever there is a court case involving violence towards a victim that the media likes, the journalists always want to know whether the criminal has shown remorse. It is part of the package of law reporting (did the victim cry; was the sentence too light -- of course it was; did victim's family achieve closure; did the expression on the criminal's face change when the sentence was read out; will the lawyers appeal; did the criminal show remorse) from the corporate media.

These days criminals, especially juvenile criminals, are often forced to confront their victims (the old lady whose purse was snatched, the shopkeeper whose window was broken, the family whose home was broken into) -- we have ways of making you show remorse. And obviously the greater the crime the more remorse will be demanded. The boy who steals an apple might simply say sorry. A murderer might break down in tears. The owner of an oil tanker that destroys a coast might pay a huge compensation. A war criminal might beg forgiveness from the families of his victims.

I don't know how effective any of that is in fighting crime, but I guess it makes the victims feel a little better and helps to fill a news bulletin with cheap shots of tears. If it is to make the victims feel better it has to seem like genuine remorse, and the cameras and microphones thrust into the face of the evil doer will make sure that the remorse can be examined and dissected.

But when it comes to the worst crime of all I find myself at a loss -- how are the climate denialists going to show remorse? How can they be made to confront their victims when their victims are all the people of the world? And how late will the remorse come? And in what form? "I'm sorry, I didn't know", won't cut it I'm afraid.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about the kind of apology that involves rationalisation of motives. "I didn't know" has not been a useful defense since Nuremberg. "I was paid by the energy companies to be a denialist" is a bit like the defense of the criminal who was asked why he robbed banks -- "that's where the money is." "I was driven by an ideological belief in favor of neoconservative capitalism/against socialism" is probably the kind of defense Radovan Karadzic might mount, but murder in the defense of ideology is no virtue. "It would have been ok if we had won" might have been said by Hitler in the bunker underneath the ruined Berlin.

No. I want a straightforward uncomplicated, unqualified admission of guilt from these people who have undoubtedly sentenced the world, including my grandchildren, to a society in which life is brutish nasty and short. A world in which the ecology is destroyed and civilisation ruined. A world indeed in which life may not survive at all.

"Please forgive me, for I did not know what I was doing" is probably as close as we will get to remorse from denialists.

And I can't.

Forgive them.

And on the Watermelon Blog I don't even try.