Keeping Our Options Open

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I have been gradually coming around to the problem of global warming. As an oil and gas industry employee, I was somewhat skeptical of the claims made by scientists. Unfortunately, I found that my skepticism was based on ignorance of some of the scientific findings.

Let’s face it, global warming is a reality. Temperatures are rising and changes are taking place. Some people believe that the problem is overstated and that long-term climate changes are the real culprit.

I would like to present in evidence as exhibit one, mankind’s history of environmental destruction. The presence of human beings and their development is marked by efforts to subdue and control the environment. The pattern in agriculture was to plant the land until the crop yields dropped too low and the farmer had to relocate. Modern farming practices have stopped that. Industrial development brought with it air and water pollution. No longer is air that stinks and water that catches on fire acceptable by-products of progress. Left to its own devices, businesses driven by investor expectations would not spend the money to protect the environment. Therefore, unless the government mandates it, companies operating in the interest of shareholders are unlikely to be global stewards.

For exhibit two, I introduce the better safe than sorry argument. Remember your mother who insisted that you wore clean underwear and socks without holes in case you got into an accident? How about fire insurance that protects us from a low probability event and is priced much higher than the expected cost of that event? Or the atheist who prays just to hedge his bets? The consequences of being wrong on global warming are much more serious than being embarrassed in the emergency room, losing a house or one person’s eternal damnation. We are talking about events that could end life on the planet.

So let’s stop the debate and spend our resources on developing non-polluting resources. That’s not a bad thing or a waste of money. We will run out of fossil fuels at some point and creating new energy sources will allow us to continue our maturation as a species. The new energy sources could provide jobs for thousands, perhaps millions of workers; reduce our dependence on oil supplies from political volatile areas; and improve the world’s health.


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