Sunday, February 12, 2012

Protecting Life on the Blue Marble


Sometimes we need a little perspective to get our priorities straight. As Bill McKibben points out in "The Great Carbon Bubble: Why the Fossil Fuel Industry Fights So Hard," we experienced the greatest weather extremes in recorded history in 2011, 14 weather disasters in the U.S. alone. And yet we have an entire political party in denial that there are any large-scale dynamics at work in the global weather system that potentially threaten our survival.

Why is the fossil fuel working so hard to spread denial about climate change? As in many things in life, follow the money.

Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

The billions of dollars in profits earned by Chevron and ExxonMobil will build a lot of mansions for their highly paid executives. But, what's the point of a mansion if you don't have a habitable planet to build it on?