The Dec. 17 op-ed “The great human benefit of fossil fuels,” like most propaganda, is based on half-truths.
Of course “cheap, powerfully efficient” fossil fuels played a central role in development of the world economy. But that’s only half of the story. Fossil fuels aren’t really cheap or efficient — they only shift costs. Just as horse manure and other urban wastes became such huge environmental and economic costs that New Yorkers and other urban dwellers developed alternatives to horse power, growing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing such harm that it is time to shift away from fossil fuels.
As an op-ed, the author isn’t confined to facts, so it’s not surprising to see so many old half-truths and lies about climate change repeated. Of course, weather and climate are complex, and predictions are difficult. But recent findings about rates of thinning of the Arctic ice pack, melting of glaciers and permafrost, problems of water supply and ocean acidification all support projections of increasing rates of warming and climate impacts. And renewable energy isn’t more “unreliable” than other sources — it just requires different types of management.
If the author were really concerned about the poor in developing countries, he would address long term threats such as sea level rise and flooding in coastal India and Bangladesh, or of increasing droughts in many agricultural regions. Instead, he uses half-truths to cast doubt on climate science and on the actions needed to solve the problems of climate change.