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Vol. 13, No. 18 - August 31, 2011
Waging war on the future

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For the last several years, big oil, coal companies, and business and industry associations such as the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have waged an all-out frontal attack on the science of climate change and on any policies that hold the promise of solving our climate crisis. 

The all-out campaign to prevent the necessary transition from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner energy is a war against the future. The already-warming planet is now producing droughts, floods, and famine. Extreme weather, now the new normal, will only get worse as the stable climate that has sustained human progress for the past centuries becomes unpredictable and increasingly inhospitable for large areas of the globe. And the continued delay in making the transition to clean energy holds back economic growth and increases global energy insecurity. 

Here are the primary tactics of the war against the future. Smear respected scientists. Slap the label of "conspiracy" on the consistent results of high-quality climate studies - carried out by the world's most reputable academic and scientific institutions - that show the planet is warming and human activity is the primary cause. Pour money into political campaigns and set up independent political operations to support candidates for public office who deny the planet is warming due to our addiction to fossil fuels. Use those resources to savage candidates who accept the settled science of climate change. And regardless of how often the science, observable measurements, or common sense reveal the distortions and lies, simply keep shouting them through their media echo chamber and amplifiers, led by Fox News. 

This war and its tactics are successfully producing results for the dirty energy army. According to recent polls, public acceptance of the science showing climate change is caused by humans and worry about the results of global warming have been on a significant wane over the past three years. Earlier this year, every single Republican member (31 of them) of the U.S. House Energy Committee refused to support language affirming that climate change is happening. Even more disturbing, serious candidates for the office of President of the United States are denying the reality of climate change. 

Unfortunately, those who accept the reality of climate science seem to be in retreat and hunkered down. Many advocates for policies that would cut heat-trapping pollution will not even mention climate change as a motivation behind support for clean energy solutions. Few will mount robust defenses of maligned scientists and their research. 

The earth has already warmed and we are seeing the results. Some further warming is already locked in by the atmosphere's reservoir of our carbon dioxide pollution, but if we act now, we can keep the temperature rise from producing a climate catastrophe for our grandchildren. We can choose not to import highly-polluting oil from Canadian tar sands. We can adjust tax policies to create incentives for clean energy research and deployment, and remove incentives that provide unnecessary support for fossil fuels. We can invest in national and state efforts to create the new clean energy infrastructure and at the same time create jobs. 

It's time to fight back against these warriors on the future. It will take courage to take on the battle, but our primary weapon is the truth. We need to defend the scientists and the science. We need to hold public officials accountable for their words and deeds. We need to support public officials who accept climate science and work for clean energy solutions. 

We need to stop the retreat, come out of the bunkers, and fully engage in the war for the future. If we do, we can win.

 PennFuture Facts is a biweekly publication designed to be a brief, informative
and interesting look at a topical environmental and/or economic issue in Pennsylvania.

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