Fossil Criminals

What can we say, and do, about fossil fuel lobbyists, owners and bosses, and their political enablers, in the face of clear scientific warning that there is no time left: carbon emissions must be rapidly reduced, starting now.

The International Energy Agency, not exactly a wild greenie organisation, has said we must approve no more extraction projects, we must eliminate all subsidies of fossil fuels, and we must rapidly phase down the burning of fossil fuels. Cutting emissions by 50% by 2030 is a bare minimum, still no guarantee of avoiding a cascade of tipping points that would collapse civilisation and cause heavy loss of human and other life on planet Earth.

Do we know what are the chances of such an armageddon? No we don’t, and that is precisely the point. Perhaps we will be lucky and avoid catastrophe despite all the self-interested obstruction. Or perhaps the tipping is underway and already beyond our capacity to reverse it. We don’t know.

It is reported that the recent COP27 climate conference in Egypt was swarming with fossil fuel lobbyists, hundreds if not thousands of them. They did their work well, virtually no country agreed to increase their ambition to the minimum needed to stay anywhere near a warming limit of 1.5°C or even 2°C.

Presumably those lobbyists go home to families at night. What do they tell their children? Do they sleep well at night? What fierce level of denialism must they call upon, so that no hint of the apocalypse they may be unleashing intrudes upon their awareness, relationships and dreams?

I say ‘may be unleashing’, but if the fossil fuel industry is allowed to pursue its proclaimed ambitions then apocalypse is a certainty. So far it is pretty much getting its way.

I am an earth scientist with a four-decade career behind me. I have some capacity to separate evidence and logical argument from raw emotional reaction. The arguments are there, easily found and well described by others. We scientists still have the raw emotions. Rage. Despair. The helplessness. The utter futility, it seems, of trying to break the spell, the cultivated delusion, that still holds our political culture tightly its thrall.

What can we call these fossil fuel spruikers? Criminals, certainly. They are putting the lives of many people at grave risk. They have already contributed to many deaths and to much anguish.

But ‘criminal’ hardly encompasses people who put civilisation at risk. Who put most of humanity at risk. The many holocausts of the past few centuries are small change compared to what they will plausibly wreak upon us.
Continuing to spruik fossil fuels is a crime against humanity in the literal sense.

What are the chances of apocalypse? It is hard to put numbers on the cautious consensus statements of the IPCC, the careful assessments of recent scientific papers, and the known tendency of scientists to under-state dramatic conclusions. More than 1%, plausibly much more, as the Arctic warms rapidly and the West Antarctic ice sheet is destabilised. Would you board an airliner whose chance of crashing was somewhere north of 1%? What about 70%? If anyone claims those numbers are wrong, ask them to prove it.

Our old political parties, Liberal, National, Labor, are captured by the fossil fuel industry. They are complicit. They will not do what is necessary, so it is pointless to keep begging them. The only option is to remove them from power, as the federal Coalition was removed last May.

Yes, there are alternatives, and why would you not change your vote to them? What reason can you conjure, judged against the alternative consequences?

The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, and the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, run around proclaiming their good works. They would be good works if they were relevant. Sadly, they are eclipsed by Labor’s destructive policies: they are relegated to greenwashing.

Labor, federal and state, keeps approving new fossil fuel extraction projects. It has not eliminated the massive subsidies of public money to the fossil fuel industry, well over $10 billion per year just in Australia. It has announced a new subsidy of around $1.8 billion for a fossil processing plant near Darwin, fed by fracked natural gas from the NT. There is no justification for any fracking anywhere, it is a filthy and destructive way of extracting a very harmful substance.

Prime Minister Albanese has claimed Labor will support the fossil fuel industry only as long as it is commercially viable. The massive subsidies Labor continues give the lie to his claim.

State governments criminalise protesters and impose draconian punishments on brave people who try to stop a coal train, or who disrupt some traffic for a while, in desperate attempts to break the delusion.

But it is very clear who are the criminals. It will certainly be clear to our children and grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “Fossil Criminals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s