Empower Our Future

Clean Energy. Local Control.

Fighting against the pro-extinction coalition

Published in Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
By Chris Hoffman

What would you call someone who sold you a car – sold you the car, not gave it to you – yet that person knew that at about 50,000 miles / 5 years the car would assuredly blow up, killing you and everyone else in the car?

This is the situation we are in with respect to climate change and fossil fuels. Estimates vary about how much time we have left. But the number of years in the best estimates are in the single digits. A 2022 United Nations report warned that if countries do not move away much faster from fossil fuels, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would likely be out of reach by the end of the decade.

Over a year ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas, and coal, from now – from this year.”  What part of “no new investments in oil, gas, and coal” is hard to understand?

Yet fossil fuel companies continue to invest, abetted by certain politicians and trade organizations. These are the ones who are selling us the car that is going to blow us up (and take down the world’s ecosystems as well).

I would call them “pro-extinction.”

Given everything we know about the science, and everything can see with our own eyes in terms of extreme weather, floods, drought, sea-level rise, and so on, that seems an apt term.

Exxon knew about climate change as early as 1977, and then spent millions promoting misinformation about it.

And today, according to a recent investigation by the Guardian, the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects (spending $103 million a day for the rest of the decade) – projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts.

In other words: pro-extinction.

Shockingly, they are making huge windfall profits in the process.

Exxon and other fossil fuel companies are not the only members of the pro-extinction coalition.

Charles Koch is the 20th-richest person in the world with a net worth of $58 billion. “Koch family-controlled foundations donated more than $145 million to a network of 90 think tanks and advocacy groups from 1997 through 2018 to disparage climate science and block efforts to address climate change. Since the death of Charles Koch’s brother David in 2019, the Charles Koch Foundation has continued to finance this disinformation campaign, giving more than $17 million to 23 groups in 2019 and 2020, pushing the Koch grand total north of $162 million,” according to Elliott Negan in a blog for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Most of the Republicans in the Senate as well as the Republican wing of the Supreme Court are also in the pro-extinction coalition. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says that after the Court’s Citizens United ruling, “No piece of carbon dioxide regulation legislation has managed to get a single Republican co-sponsor in the Senate.”

Striking another blow for the pro-extinction side, the Republican wing of the Supreme Court, in West Virginia v. EPA, limited the ability of the EPA to regulate climate change.

There is a coordinated effort by many Republican state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies that are trying prevent extinction by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, there are many additional members of the pro-extinction coalition, too numerous to list in a column. But we should recognize who they are and call them on it.

It is common sense that we can’t just completely stop using fossil fuels tomorrow and that we need a just and minimally disruptive transition to a full clean energy economy. But it is also common sense that hindering that transition or – worse – promoting more use of fossil fuels, essentially sponsors our own extinction.

Ironically, being pro-extinction is also being anti-progress. A clean-energy economy would deliver cleaner air and water and generate well-paying jobs.

“The U.S. can save so much money in health and fossil-fuel costs by decarbonizing its economy that it makes financial sense to do it regardless of climate change,” says an author of a report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Dollar-for-dollar, clean energy and other green investments generally create more jobs in the near term than unsustainable investments.

By defeating the pro-extinction coalition we can make the world a better place and save our own necks in the bargain.

Chris Hoffman is an ecopsychologist, retired management consultant with 23 years in the electric utility industry, and a father who hopes that his son and his son’s generation won’t have to deal with a trashed planet.