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This chapter focuses on corporate harm. The problem with trying to tackle corporate harm is that virtually every act of the corporate sector is deemed, in some way or another, to be ‘good for the country’. This ideology of corporate virtue, and the benefits of business for the common good, is promulgated through extensive corporate advertising campaigns, capitalist blackmail, and aggressive lobbying of government and against opponents. The prevailing view among government and business is that, with few exceptions, the ‘market’ is the best referee when it comes to preventing or stopping current and potential environmental harm. To address corporate harm, then, requires a political understanding of class power and a rejection of formally legal criteria in assessing criminality and harm. As such, it implies conflict over definitions of conduct and activity, over legitimacy of knowledge claims, and over the role and use of state instruments and citizen participation in putting limits on corporate activity.

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This introductory chapter provides an overview of the concept of Climate Change Criminology. Climate Change Criminology rests upon the four pillars of crime and harm; global connectedness and ecological justice; causes and consequences; and power and interests. These are separate but inextricably linked domains of analysis, interpretation, and critique. Each area demands novel ways of thinking about the problem, employing methods and approaches that necessarily push the boundaries of contemporary criminological theory and the purview of modern criminal justice institutions. In several important respects, Climate Change Criminology parallels work which focuses on ‘social harm’ as a constitutive concept. What makes a social harm ‘social’ is the fact that it does not stem from natural causes; it is intrinsically caused by humans. Analysis and response to this is central to the project of Climate Change Criminology.

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This chapter examines the consequences of climate change from the point of view of disasters and their consequences for specific interest and population groups. A key focus is the social intersections that become apparent in such events. For example, the climatic and weather events that form the backdrop to present conflicts in places such as Syria are discussed, as are the gendered vulnerabilities evident in disaster situations such as cyclones and tsunami. Social conflicts stemming from climate change are then elaborated as a more general and increasingly likely scenario. In response to real and perceived threats and risk linked to climate change, issues of security are already generating angst among policy-makers and military planners. Indeed, the securitisation of natural resources, to the detriment of others, is emerging as an important climate-related issue, especially in regard to food, water, land, and air quality.

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Leading green criminologist Rob White asks what can be learned from the problem-solving focus of crime prevention to help face the challenges of climate change in this call to arms for criminology and criminologists.

Industries such as energy, food and tourism and the systematic destruction of the environment through global capitalism are scrutinized for their contribution to global warming. Ideas of ‘state-corporate crime’ and ‘ecocide’ are introduced and explored in this concise overview of criminological writings on climate change. This sound and robust application of theoretical concepts to this ‘new’ area also includes commentary on topical issues such as the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement.

Part of the New Horizons in Criminology series, which draws on the inter-disciplinary nature of criminology and incorporates emerging perspectives like social harm, gender and sexuality, and green criminology.

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This chapter discusses the notion of victimhood as this pertains to climate change. Each section deals with a specific victim category — non-human environmental entities, children and young people, and Indigenous communities. Each grouping has its own specific histories, stories, and issues. What perhaps unites the discussion is an underlying emphasis on adopting an ecocentric perspective that incorporates social and ecological justice. From a human perspective, ecocentrism attempts to strike a balance between the need to utilise resources for human survival and the need to develop rules that facilitate the benign use of the ecosphere. Thus, for example, ensuring the preservation of biocentric values becomes integral to maintaining long-term human needs. To do this means minimising the victimisation of both the human and the non-human — in essence, to assert a form of ecological citizenship.

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This chapter addresses how criminal justice institutions are responding to climate change. This entails description of court cases intended to bolster the reduction of carbon emissions and the overall role of climate change litigation in the pursuit of climate justice. The chapter argues that an action plan against climate change must include activities and responses that involve the law and legal change, environmental law enforcement activities, courts and adjudication processes, and direct social action. Ultimately, however, this will also require action in and around the exercise of state power as well — since the carbon vandal more often than not acts with direct and indirect state support, through government policy decisions and via laws and courts that are skewed in pro-business directions. The place and role of the criminologist in pursuit of climate justice, therefore, can never be politically neutral.

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This concluding chapter summarises the main propositions and areas of concern for Climate Change Criminology. It also emphasises the role of criminologists as public intellectuals and political activists, and the necessity that there be stewards and guardians of the future. This translates into prioritising research, policy, and practice around climate change themes. For criminologists, this means that they need to go beyond parochial viewpoints and those perspectives that frame harm in terms of national or regional interests. Their loyalty has to be to the planet as a whole, rather than being bound by a narrow prescriptive patriotism based on nation. Ultimately, the endeavour of Climate Change Criminology should be to create the conditions for a future that is more forgiving and generous rather than exploitive of humans, environments, and animals.

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This chapter defines and describes the concept of ecocide, which refers to the destruction of ecological systems and habitats. This includes the everyday activities that contribute to climate change and thus to ecocide on a larger and small scale. The chapter then introduces the notion of state–corporate nexus by examining how industries, supported and abetted by governments, contribute to global warming. Indeed, pro-capitalist ideologies and practices ensure continued economic growth at the expense of ecological limits. As such, effective responses to climate change need to address the deep-seated inequalities and trends within the treadmill of production that go to the heart of the ownership, control, and exploitation of resources. The crime of ecocide is rarely embedded, however, in state legislation. This is, in part, because the state is directly implicated in perpetuating activities that contribute to global warming.

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This chapter presents a variety of explanations and typologies relating to the crime–climate relationship. It is clear that there are many specific causes for particular kinds of crime, and that it is the immediate variables, persons, and contexts that shape what occurs, why, where, and how. It is also apparent that temperature and climate changes do have an impact on human behaviour, and these are related to broader structural factors such as global warming. Moreover, government policy and market responses to climate change become important variables in the rise of new crimes and the movement of criminal networks and individuals into domains that hitherto did not exist. The carbon emissions credit market, for example, is precisely such a phenomenon. For Climate Change Criminology, it is imperative to keep developing sustained analyses of climate-related crimes.

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