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Tackling climate change deniers’ evolving message

September 6th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Sean Butler

While I appreciate any attempt to look at an issue from a more nuanced point of view and think Stephanie Turple’s letter to the editor (“More complex than simply blaming fossil fuels,” Aug. 30) was well-intentioned, it contained a number of misconceptions, each of which begins with a kernel of truth but then spins off into fantasy. It makes me wonder where she is getting her information (she doesn’t say).

The climate change deniers’ message has evolved: no longer able to credibly deny that we humans are causing changes to our climate, they now seek to confuse the issue as much as possible with statements like Ms. Turple’s in an apparent rearguard action to delay the inevitable transition to a new energy system for as long as possible.

I’ve always been bewildered by this willful resistance to change. Was it this hard when humankind progressed from wood to coal or coal to oil? Was the wood lobby so strong that it resisted for decades the move to coal, funding think tanks to confound the populace and delay progress? Essentially free and clean energy from the sun and wind and water, transmitted through wires instead of pipelines and tanker trucks, seems so obviously superior a technology that I’m surprised there’s any argument.

I could spend much more than my allotted space for this column refuting each of her claims, but to keep this brief, let me just make two points.

One, burning stuff and then breathing it in is bad for us. Ourworldindata.org has a long article that reviews many studies into this, with various estimates, but a mid-range is 7 million premature deaths per year caused by breathing air tainted with the exhaust from fossil fuel combustion. COVID took over three and a half years to kill nearly that many people, and we shut down the world for that.

My second point is that solar photovoltaic electricity generation is now “the cheapest in history” according to the International Energy Agency and many other analysts. “Last year,” says The Conversation, “the world built more solar capacity than every other power source combined.” Other renewables are not far behind. Business knows an opportunity when it sees one and is not going to fall for the spin disseminated by Big Oil and political partisans who’ve decided trashing renewables will buy them votes.

Ms. Turple is right that energy and climate are extremely complex subjects and that no technology is without costs. But the downsides of renewables are far less than fossil fuels, and it’s no oversimplification to say that we and our planet will be much better off once we kick the habit.

Sean Butler is a Wakefield resident, writer and farmer at his Ferme et Foret in Rupert.

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