Welcome to 2017, an awe inspiring age; a time where the human race makes unfathomable advances in science and technology everyday that were once only imaginable in comic books. We carry around 5 inch flat screen supercomputers in our pockets, and have drones deliver us goods we purchase online. We truly are in an era of unparalleled accomplishment. Why is it then that an absolutely mind boggling number of people in our country - our President included - continue to deny the total validity of something so widely accepted as man made climate change? Any reputable online scientific journal, website, or database, will find quickly inform you otherwise, detailing just how real this issue is, and how serious the impending consequences may be.
Addressing myself and a room of 15 or so other college students, Dr. Alan Blumberg, a distinguished Oceanographer acclaimed for his studies on global warming and it’s potential impacts, tackled the idea of climate change denial himself.
“Who are the ones responsible for the most emissions?”
He asked an audience of wide eyed undergraduates, before quickly responding to his own question.
“Big Business. And who own the Big Businesses?”
Blumberg once again answered himself;
He went on to explain that of course this is not the mindset of all conservatives, or those who align themselves on the right of the political spectrum, but emphasized that denying rapid, irreversible climate change makes a lot of sense for industrial tycoons whose factory fueled empires are responsible for generating lots of wealth, and a lot of harmful emissions. Several dozen other questions were asked, spanning topics from rising sea levels, to ways to reduce flooding in lower Manhattan, but I left our little Q and A session that day with the climate change denial issue permanently burnt into my skull. I began wondering Just how much harm do these Titans of Industry cause to our climate? And how much do they cash out from it? The answer to both questions: Too much.
In GreenBiz’s 2014 report of the previous years top 20 greenhouse gas perpetrators, the first American company, Exxon Mobil, came in at a sultry #9. Responsible for this ranking was the energy corporations obscene CO2 emissions, which were measured at an amount equivalent to 126,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 2013. That’s 31,500,000 elephants worth of gas. As could be expected, this A-bomb of noxious fumes to the environment did not come without it’s perks for Exxon, as their 2013 revenue came in at just shy of 32.6 billion.
I’m a social science major at an engineering school, so math isn’t exactly my strong suit, but from what I can gather from the divine power of my Ti-84 graphing calculator, Exonn made about $253 per every ton of CO2 they emitted into the atmosphere that year. Talk about a serious return on investment, even if that investment is creating devastating effects for society. These statistics shine a lot of light on the reasons why conservative big business owners turn the other cheek when it comes to climate change; there's so much money to be made by doing so! Although Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has confirmed the fact that at least some aspect of climate change is thanks to human activity, he’s no Rachel Carson.
Tillerson might acknowledge the existence of climate change and global warming, but Exxon has been criticized for [not] taking action. According to the proxy voting results from the 2016 annual meeting, investors voted down climate change issues. They voted against adding a climate change expert to the board, against creating a report on the impacts of climate change policies and against creating a policy to limit global warming to 20 C. (Levine) Tillerson has also blamed the media for over exaggerating the negative affects global warming and climate change will have on society, and has stated there are far more pressing issues that need to be addressed first.
In Tillerson’s defense, Exxon Mobil's CO2 emissions have been decreasing since 2013, but so have their revenues. It’s a direct cause and effect relationship, and normally one would assume this trend will simply continue as they take some economic hits in order to cut down their emissions, but something tells me this trend will not continue. That something is the fact that Tillerson is no longer just the CEO of Exxon, he’s also President Donald Trump's newly appointed Secretary of State. With Donald Trump being everything less than shy about his apparent denial of climate change (he’s gone as far as to call it an “expensive hoax”), will he pass some legislation, allowing his buddy Rex free reign to run up his emissions, and run his yearly revenue back up as well? Or maybe by simply continuing to push his idea on the public that climate change is not real, he could dull the masses down into thinking soaring CO2 emissions are no big deal. This might let Tillerson, and other big business owners reverse the cutbacks they've had to make on emissions thanks to recent environmental safety efforts.
For the sake of our country, and better yet the climate of the world, I really hope none of the previous scenarios occur. Unfortunately, something tells me that might be a tad too optimistic of an outlook. Climate change is no expensive hoax, but the expenses it will place on humanity for decades to come are worse than any made up horror story anyone can imagine. It will be very interesting to see how the global warming debate will affect politics and the economy for the next 4 years, and we can only hope for the best..