What If It Is a Big Hoax?
Whenever I hear from the deniers of climate change I am reminded of the above political cartoon from Joel Pett. The cartoon gets to the heart of the matter whether you believe the science behind climate change or not as it highlights the benefits of going to a cleaner mix of energy and creating a better world.
Production and consumption of fossil fuel has well-known and obvious adverse impacts to the environment. Particulate matter from diesel combustion has been documented to be a cause of increased asthma rates in children and tens of thousands of premature deaths. Ground level ozone from motor vehicle fuel use, which is known to cause lung damage in humans, is the main cause of SMOG, and has economic costs to society. Simply getting fossil fuels out of the ground and into commerce can cause significant short and long term environmental damage no matter how responsible an energy company may be.
As for climate change, I could quote from the Union of Concerned Scientists or reference the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or myriad of sites by governmental and nongovernmental health organizations as these sites are run by credible scientists with oversight policies that promote thorough vetting of research leading to good science and sound, reasonable conclusions. Yet in the politically charged environment we have today, it seems that there are still some individuals who feel that these organizations are simply putting out misinformation.
With the change in majority in the House of Representatives, one of the more thoughtful Republicans, Bob Inglis (R- S.C.), had this to say at a recent House Science and Technology hearing:
To my free enterprise colleagues, whether you think it's all a bunch of hooey, what we talk about in this committee -- the Chinese don't, and they plan on eating our lunch in the next century, working on these problems. We may press the pause button for a few years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.
Two well-known oil companies state in their Corporate Sustainability Report the following:
Rising emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose significant risks to society and ecosystems…ExxonMobil believes that it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the risks to society associated with increasing GHG emissions…strategies should promote fundamental shifts toward energy-efficient technologies and practices across the economy, and the more prominent use of fuels with lower carbon intensity…such as …renewable fuels…
Chevron shares the concerns of governments and the public about climate change and recognizes that the use of fossil fuels to meet the world's energy needs is a contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth's atmosphere.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in its Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal," and that it is "very likely" that a significant level of warming is due to human activity.
Many of us who have worked in the environmental profession for most of their careers believe climate change is real and that CO2 from human activities is at least part of the cause. But if it is ‘all a big hoax’ as the cartoon says, at least we will have created a better, healthier world if we act at all levels of society by creating an energy policy with proper incentives, and renewing our personal commitment to changing our collective energy footprint.