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Global warming and the politics of fossil fuel

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Believe me, as a 60-year-old American, living in the most affluent country in the most affluent period in history, I appreciate and value what fossil fuels have done for civilization. I know we’re not going to be able to transition to a non-fossil-fuel economy overnight. But if you keep approving tar sands projects, or massive pipelines, or drilling in the Arctic, when does it stop? When does this movement to a renewable energy economy begin? If I were running a fossil fuel company, I’d be uneasy about the concept of so-called “stranded assets,” because at some point — when seas begin to rise significantly, when weather is sufficiently wild and destabilized, and when things are just too damn hot — people, business owners, and governments are going to say it’s time to stop burning fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow. I think that as global warming intensifies, it’s likely that a significant portion of the assets of fossil fuel companies are going to have to remain in the ground.

Oilprice.com: As the climate debate increasingly polarizes the American public, science seems to be getting in the way of agendas on both sides. Your magazine recently noted how even environmentalists are ignoring science when it stands in the way of furthering their agendas. Are we entering a period in which scientific facts will be completely sidelined as climate change becomes the strict purview of politics?

Fen Montaigne: It’s indeed unfortunate that climate change has become so intensely politicized in the US and that both sides resort to twisting the facts and using super-heated rhetoric.

From my perspective, however, I think there is a lot more distortion of science on the climate change denier side. Still, when global warming activists ring alarm bells every time there is a heat wave or a period of intense storms, I think that’s a mistake. What happens if we have an unusually cold spring in the eastern US or Europe, like the current one? Does that mean global warming is a hoax? Of course not. Short-term ups and downs in the weather should not be the cause for either side to crow or cry wolf.

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