America's Most Dangerous Enemy
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
At this moment, America is threatened by the greatest danger we may ever face. This danger lurks within our borders—a powerful network of organizations, which, while once vital to our country, now serves to weaken and ultimately ruin America.
This network is directed by dangerous radicals, on a path to fundamentally upset the balance of our world. They have infiltrated our highest levels of government and business. Their plan, if carried through to fruition, will result in the deaths of millions of Americans, and the suffering of millions more. I am talking about the fossil fuel industry.
Though not always the case, today’s fossil fuel industry is fundamentally un-American and anti-America. In violation of the most basic American values, they have manipulated our people, subverted our democracy, undermined our economic and moral superiority, and are making us a global laughingstock. Moreover, they are killing our country and our planet, putting us on track for 4-6 degrees of global warming—something straight out of an apocalyptic disaster film.
They threaten our values and subvert our democracy
The fossil fuel industry spends staggering sums of money to deliberately mislead the American public and buy our democracy. In recent years, they have stepped up their attacks on climate science and action to new levels.
Every day, the fossil fuel industry spends $167,000 on lobbying, and millions yearly on campaign contributions. They spent $367 million on TV ads this past election alone. These lavish political expenditures ensure that politicians are more beholden to the fossil fuel industries than they are to We the People. Against the direct interest of America, they have set up a government largely of the fossil fuel industry, by the fossil fuel industry, and for the fossil fuel industry.
Taking a page from the playbook of big tobacco, they spend fortunes on propaganda and “anti-warming” studies to confuse the science, misleading Americans into doubt the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.
Perhaps you saw the recent billboard campaign “I still believe in climate change—do you?” which compared those who accept climate science to criminals like Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden. This ad was run by the Heartland Institute—once paid by Phillip Morris to assure Americans that second-hand smoke is perfectly healthy. Today, they get paid by Exxon-Mobil.
They are going to bankrupt America
In a frighteningly ironic twist, a common talking point says that those who pursue climate action do so at the expense of our economy. The fossil fuel lobby has been very successful at painting their opponents as anti-progress and anti-business, imposing restricting regulations that hurt America. Nothing could be further from the truth. Green jobs are crucial for our economy and already some of the fastest-growing sectors within it. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry has a record of laying off workers despite profits, evicting homeowners, cutting corners, lying, and endangering Americans directly. Moreover, the climate change it causes is poised to permanently ruin our economy.
Science and the Pentagon have been warning us for years about the national security threat of climate change. Now, big business and Wall Street also urge action. Organizations from the World Bank to the International Energy Agency to PricewaterhouseCoopers affirm that if we don’t react quickly to climate change, we condemn ourselves to a future of devastating climate impacts and economic loss.
We’re already seeing the costs of climate change. Hurricane Sandy alone has an estimated price tag of $50-75 billion. Wildfires and droughts this summer could cost us 1% or more of our GDP. And this is just the beginning. Climate change is projected to cost 3% of global GDP by 2030—enough to put the economy in a permanent recession. And what of the value of human life? By that date, it is expected to cause over 16, 000 deaths per day.
Let’s talk about welfare. Each year, the fossil fuel industry receives billions of dollars in subsidies from Congress. This is despite the fact that the fossil fuel industry is the richest industry in the history of the world, despite the fact that their profits come at our expense, and despite the fact that the “service” they provide is one that promises to end life on Earth as we know it.
Who foots the bill for these subsidies? We, the American taxpayers. We are literally paying this industry to kill us, and to ensure that our children and grandchildren will grow up in a world ravaged by the impacts of runaway climate change.
They are dragging us away from leadership and economic prominence
Thanks to a strategic campaign by the fossil fuel industry, the United States is the only country in which climate science is still in question, putting us on the wrong side of history and making us a global laughingstock. The world looks at us in horror and disbelief as the country that doesn’t believe in science.
As we drag our feet, countries like Germany and China are seizing the opportunity, taking the lead in climate innovation. We have everything it takes to be the moral and economic leader in the global green economy. Instead, we’re losing ground to the rest of the world as special interests drag us away from progress. Our moral and economic status is at stake. If America wishes to remain a global leader, we must champion climate action now.
They are killing our future
The very business model of fossil fuel industry is one that is incompatible with a livable future in America, or indeed on Earth.
The science is clear: We have a very limited carbon budget—we must burn under 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide if we want to avoid warming of greater than two degrees and catastrophic climate change. Yet the fossil fuel industry has five times that amount in their reserves, and they plan on burning it all. This will lead to an unthinkable climate crisis by the end of the century.
Our legacy is on the line
We understand that climate change is America’s greatest threat. We must now follow that thought to its logical conclusion. As the primary drivers of climate change, the fossil fuel industry must be recognized as America’s most dangerous foe.
The fossil fuel industry was once a crucial part of our nation’s development. That time is past. The fossil fuel industry is an outdated relic, a fossil itself, and one that needs to be discarded and replaced by something better if we are to move forward. Fortunately, green job alternatives are already here, and growing at nearly ten times the rate of the overall economy in some states.
Those holding on to power and dragging the conversation backward do so to the detriment of our country. They have usurped control of our political system and spend outrageous sums of money to mislead the people. They plan to chemically alter the state of the planet, causing devastating, irreversible climate change within decades. They are fundamentally un-American and anti-America. They are an industry of the past, but if we want a future, they must be phased out.
President Obama said, “After one president in the pocket of the oil companies – we can’t afford another. For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time.”
He was right. In this land of the free, we can’t be held hostage to a rogue industry. As a country, we need to honor this promise, heed the experts, end the subsidies, and transition off fossil fuels at the rate that science demands. We are teetering over the edge of the climate cliff, yet we fear to act, based on what is “politically feasible.” When what is politically feasible is fundamentally incompatible with a livable future on Earth, we must abandon this way of thinking, and fast.
If the patriots of the American Revolution, or the Civil Rights or Women’s Rights Movements, had allowed themselves to be hampered by what was believed to be politically feasible, what would their legacy be? Right now, the stakes are even higher, and the window is closing. As our greatest threat stares us in the face, America’s climate legacy is on the line. We must have the courage to confront the special interests, get this monkey off our back, and keep America great.