Climate Change Deniers: Why You Should Still Care About Going Green

On October 20, 2022 by Tim Newman
Diesel spill rainbow. Image credit: John

Whether or not you believe that the climate crisis is imminent, there are plenty of good reasons to care about going green. Here, we discuss health, wealth, and war.

Climate change is a fact — it is a verifiable fact: the climate has always changed, and it will continue to change. The contentious issue is whether humans are adding to it, or whether these shifts would be happening without our influence.

Although virtually all scientists agree that humans are playing a substantial role, this consensus is not enough for some.

For climate change deniers, scientists are just following the herd, or they’ve got their graphs wrong, or they’re being paid out by companies that are profiting from green energy, or maybe they are just plain stupid.

You can read the official stance of a wide range of professional scientific institutions here. The thing is, scientists cannot convince staunch deniers; most often, their rejection of climate science is ideological.

Those who steadfastly reject the climate crisis tend to be, on average, white conservative males. It seems to be a badge of honour.

In this article, We’re not going to focus on the science behind climate change — others have already covered that in great detail. Instead, we will focus on other significant reasons to reduce our carbon footprint.

It’s going to run out, you know?

Remaining oil reserves.

One solid reason to look for alternatives to fossil fuels is that they are going to run out. We could just wait until they are all gone and deal with it then, or we could focus on alternatives now.

Of course, the giants of petroleum have no incentive to lead the way here. As oil and coal get trickier to find and extract, prices will go up. And, as small businesses and members of the public find it increasingly difficult to afford transport, the fat cats will be lining their palaces with finery.

So, if you are not hugely wealthy, investigating other forms of energy makes excellent financial sense.

British Petroleum’s Group head of technology, David Eyton, says we are not running out of oil, thanks to improvements in oil removing technology.

However, if one was to get picky about it, one could say that we started running out of fossil fuels the moment that we started sucking them out of the ground.

It seems that we might have longer than earlier estimates predicted, but fossil fuels will definitely run out.

The major issue is that heads of large companies only worry about making enough profit to keep shareholders happy for as long as they are in charge, which is likely to be just a few years. What happens after their stint is of no concern to them.

As long as these head honchos drive through profits during their watch, there is no incentive for them to make the business (and society) future proof. And, broadly speaking, the same applies to politicians.

To ram the point home: fossil fuels will run out and, as they become more challenging to unearth, prices will soar. Similarly, the race to find new oil fields will intensify, and nature will, undoubtedly, suffer as a result.

Conversely, we won’t run out of sunshine any time soon… and if we do, we’ll have much bigger fish to fry.

Burning oil produces carcinogens

Burning oil well in Iraq

For years, we have known that burning fossil fuels produces carcinogens — chemicals that increase the risk of developing cancer. With wind and solar technology rapidly improving, it makes good sense to put more effort into this cleaner approach.

At this point, I should make it clear that green energy does have downsides. Wind farms kill migrating birds, and solar farms can destroy habitats; but compared to fossil fuels, they are not even in a similar ballpark.

And, if we focus on improving green energy, we can reduce the damage that it causes even further. Green energy isn’t perfect, but that is not an excuse to continue pumping carcinogens into the atmosphere.

A paper published in the 1980s outlines some of the chemical hazards associated with burning fossil fuels:

“Of some 80 elements that are considered as metals, about 50 have been reported to be present in coal, 35 in crude oil, 30 in fuel oil, and about 20 in gasoline. As a result of combustion, these elements are mobilized and may be emitted into the atmosphere […] Human exposure to atmospheric particulates is combined with exposure to gaseous emissions such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) lays out the significant impact of pollution on human health:

“Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide per year in 2016; this mortality is due to exposure to small particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter, which cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and cancers.”

Although burning fossil fuel is not the only way to produce air pollution, it is a major player, producing the majority of air pollution. An MIT study found that, In the United States, air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. The scientists also showed that “[t]he largest contributors for […] pollutant-related mortalities are road transportation.”

So electric cars might not be as fast or make that roaring noise you like so much, but they are also much less likely to shorten your life.

A reduction in warmongering?

You may have noticed that most of the recent wars to be waged by the U.S. and U.K. take place in countries with rich oil reserves.

You could argue that their oil status was unrelated. You might say that we started wars in these places because they were under the yolk of repression and being ravaged by despots. We were simply spreading democracy and freedom.

Although noble, it does beg the question of why other repressed countries without oil reserves are not being “saved” by the West, such as North Korea and Belarus.

A paper published in the journal International Security refers to oil as a “leading cause of war.”

The authors outline eight distinct mechanisms whereby oil can negatively influence international security and conflicts:

“[R]esource wars, in which states try to acquire oil reserves by force.

Petro-aggression, whereby oil facilitates domestic political control of aggressive leaders such as Saddam Hussein or Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Externalization of civil wars in petrostates.

Financing for insurgencies, such as Iranian oil money to Hezbollah.

Conflicts over potential oil-market domination, such as the United States’ conflict with Iraq over Kuwait in 1991.

Control over transit routes, such as shipping lanes and pipelines.

Oil-related grievances, whereby the presence of foreign workers in petrostates helps extremist groups such as al-Qaida recruit locals.

And as an obstacle to multilateral cooperation, such as when an importer curries favor with a petrostate to prevent multilateral cooperation on security issues.”

So, without wanting to push the boat out too far, you might argue that being less reliant on fossil fuels could increase world peace. That would be nice, right?

In conclusion: feel free to ignore climate science: scientists do get things wrong en masse sometimes.

Instead, focus on the impact on your health, your children’s health, your friends’ health. Focus on solid financial sense. Focus on reducing conflict. But, if those things don’t matter to you either, well, I give up.

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