Metrowesters beware: The merchants of doubt are right here among us!
Metrowesters beware: The merchants of doubt are right here among us! In their April 3 editorial “Our View: Renewable Energy’s Challenges,” the Metrowest Daily News editors claim to discuss challenges faced by the renewable energy industry, but don’t actually say much about renewable energy at all. They also don’t talk about the very real challenge that is climate change. No, true to the merchants of doubt playbook their main goal is simple: They aim to spread misinformation. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, and the 2014 film based on it are probably the most important documentations anyone should know these days. Why? Because they reveal the sinister machinations employed by those who aim to prevent action on climate change. Their method: Sow doubt – and in this case, discouragement. Their goal: Keep the status quo. Their funders and beneficiaries: Large fossil fuel companies, led by Koch Industries, who are after all the only ones to suffer big losses when the United States will finally address the climate crisis with the seriousness it deserves. Naomi Klein made this perfectly clear in This Changes Everything. Capitalism vs the Climate, published in 2015.
In perfect merchants of doubt style the editors omit important details – as for example when they mention the 16 years of lawsuits against Cape Wind but omit the fact that Charles Koch funded the lawsuits knowing he would lose them. And yet his calculation paid off, because he achieved his true aim: to exhaust his opponents. Or when they mention birds as potential wind turbine victims, but omit the fact that the Audubon Society favored Cape Wind after five years of study including three years of careful ornithological fieldwork. Or when they omit that methane is more than twenty times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2. Even President Obama got this wrong, and our Governor Chuck Baker consistently gets it wrong, too: Gas is not a ‘bridge’ fuel. We cannot afford to invest another penny in new fossil fuel infrastructure. Or when they present energy from wind and solar as a costly pipedream.
The fact is the International Renewable Energy Agency calculated in January 2018 that “the cost of renewable energy is now falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity generation than traditional fossil fuels within just a few years”(Forbes), making investments in solar and wind not only the good and wise, but also the financially sensible alternative. Stanford’s Marc Jacobson’s “Solutions Project” has shown for several years already how the entire United States could be powered with renewable energy. We have the technology. All that is missing is the political will. Unfortunately, the merchants of doubt are not just fatalistic naysayers. Their machinations are dangerous to our children’s and our grandchildren’s future, as we learn from the fact that fossil fuel giants Exxon and Shell knowingly buried information about the danger of climate change for decades and opted to help spread doubt instead to protect their profits.
By calling gas pipelines and fossil fuels simply “more traditional projects” and by suggesting that we need a “rational” mix of traditional and new energy sources the authors also paint those of us who are fighting for a clean energy future as irrational anti-tradition fools. Of course the exact opposite is true.They are the ones who are clinging irrationally to the status quo, doing everything they can to prevent us from doing what needs to be done to preserve our traditional way of life. Indeed, the real challenge for renewable energy in the United States is the merchants of doubt themselves! Climate change will not destroy planet earth, but it is a serious threat to human civilization already now – just ask people in the Virgin Islands, in Texas, in California, or in Puerto Rico. We urgently need fact-based media coverage of climate change. As Metrowesters we deserve more rational editorials from our local media. We deserve the facts. The science of global warming is overwhelmingly clear. We ignore the rules of physics at our peril.
The authors don’t just omit important facts. They also present an unnecessarily defeatist picture that ignores the enormous progress being made all around us. They neglect to mention, for example, that there are states already powered by a substantial percentage of renewable energy today not just in Europe, but also right here in our country: Not counting hydro power, that list includes obvious cases like Vermont (44%), Maine (38%), and California (25%), but also less obvious ones like Iowa (37%), Kansas (30%), and Oklahoma (29%). At currently 6.6% Massachusetts has some catching up to do. This is one more reason to support an increase in the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from one to three percent and all other pieces of the senate’s omnibus bill that are currently making their way through the Massachusetts House of Representatives. A clean energy future is no pipedream. It’s within our grasp.
Join members of the Metrowest node of 350Massachusetts for a Better Future at Christopher Columbus Park in Boston on April 14 from 1 to 3pm for #ScienceStrikesBack – our 2018 version of the March for Science. Come learn how we will truly power ourselves into the future. May the rational forces be with you!
Members of the Metrowest node of 350Mass:
Sabine von Mering, Ph.D., Wayland
Kyle Ahlers, Ashland