Don’t blame oil and coal companies for climate change

11 October 2019

2:54 AM

11 October 2019

2:54 AM

This year’s Nobel Prize for the silliest piece of scientific research must go to something called the Climate Accountability Institute, for revealing to the world that 35 per cent of all global carbon and methane emissions since 1965 can be traced to just 20 global companies. This week they were named and shamed in the Guardian and revealed to be, er, 17 oil companies and three coal mining companies. Scandalously, they have been pumping all this carbon into the air for their own self-enrichment while the rest of us suffer. As Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University – the fellow behind the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph – puts it: ‘The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits.’

Who would have though it, eh, that oil companies and coal-mining companies are responsible for producing fossil fuels? But is Mann really sure that it is these two dozen companies and their shareholders who have enjoyed all the benefits, while the rest of the seven and a half billion of the world’s population did nothing but suffer from their activities?

Sorry to be a pedant, but I would guess that actually those 20 companies have themselves burned rather little of the stuff they have extracted from the ground. The vast majority of it was burned by the rest of us, keeping our homes warm, getting us to work (including flying climate scientists to conferences), powering agricultural machinery which has helped feed us, powering hospitals and almost everything else which supports modern lifestyles. Oil even powers the buses which bring Extinction Rebellion protesters to London, as well as the fire engine with which the group attempted to spray the Treasury last week.

While an increasingly extreme climate lobby seeks to deny it, fossil fuels have been the fundamental ingredient of the industrialisation which has changed life for nearly all of us vastly for the better over the past two centuries. Without fossil fuels there wouldn’t be seven and a half billion people on the Earth. We would still be living in a state of pre-industrial poverty, with one in five children failing to reach their first birthday and the vast majority of the world’s population only a poor harvest away from starvation. Oil and coal companies are the unsung heroes of the greatest period in the improvement of global living standards the world has ever known.

The industrial revolution deniers blind themselves to all of this. To them, oil gas and coal were products forced upon us by evil capitalists like nicotine addiction was forced on unsuspecting smokers. Now, those corporations must be made to pay – although not, I note, the mining unions who not so long ago were championed on the left for their commitment to maintaining carbon emissions.

Sorry, but if climate change is a crisis, or even just a challenge, it is one in which we are all implicated. To borrow a phrase beloved of left-wing sociologists, society as a whole is to blame. Trying to palm off responsibility onto a few corporations does nothing to help us switch to cleaner forms of energy. It is merely an attempt by the left to seize the issue of climate change in order to promote its anti-capitalist agenda.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments