“Fossil fuel is a risk to the planet.”
This statement was debated in early November by Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org, and Alex Epstein, Founder and President of the Center For Industrial Progress and former Junior Fellow of The Ayn Rand Institute. The debate was ably mediated by Duke University Law Professor, Bill Brown.
Bill McKibben and Alex Epstein square off on fossil fuels — do they make the planet a worse place to live or a better place to live?
Full Audio Version provided by ImproveThePlanet, Center For Industrial Progress.
Spoiler Alert! McKibben Shellacked Epstein
I learned of the debate via Stefanie Penn Spear in her recent post on EcoWatch.org, DEBATE: McKibben vs. Epstein—Are Fossil Fuels a Risk to the Planet?
“My daughter and I were outraged that Epstein is capable of taking such a humanistic, anthropocentric position on the issues regarding the health of our planet,” reports Spear. Her article (which was the most media coverage I could find) and the accompanying comments make for a great debate primer.
Opposing arguments lasted over an hour and a half, but McKibben took the win in the first ten minutes, in his opening statement no less, when he laid out thirteen very good reasons to phase out fossil fuels on the planet, citing references galore:
- Energy Evolution Is Required: We should be grateful for Fossil Fuels, even as the transition beyond them has become the “task of our times.”
- Risk to Oceans: Coral reefs – the lungs of the ocean – are disappearing. The oceans have become 40% more acidic in recent years.
- Risk to Cryosphere: The loss of polar ice caps diminishes the earth’s ability to reflect sunlight.
- Risk to Hydrology: A fundamental change in the way water moves around the earth increases destructive deluges and storms.
- Risk to Agriculture: We are already seeing dramatic decreases in crop yields, and significant increases in grain prices, as a result of increased global drought. Record numbers of families must now have regular foodless days.
- Risk to Other Species: Conservative estimates predict a 70% species reduction as a result of global warming.
- Risk to Coastal Cities: Storm surges are expected to rise several feet along with sea-levels, making coastal storms more dangerous.
- Risk to Forests: Forests, which are like the lungs of our atmosphere as they absorb CO2 and produce Oxygen, are rapidly disappearing.
- Grave Risk to Public Health: 400,000 deaths are already attributed to Global Warming, and 4.5 million to Air Pollution.
- Risk to Economies and Development: Numerous studies demonstrate how Global Warming damages GDP.
- Risk To National Security: Climate change, and the scarcity it brings, has the potential to de-stabilize governments.
- Jeopardizes Political Freedom and Liberty: Climate Change challenges the fundamental beliefs ingrained in the American Conservative Agenda as more victims of extreme weather events turn to a centralized authority for aid and relief.
- Risk to Democracy: The fossil fuel industry contributes mightily to political campaigns, with Chevron having made the single largest contribution to a political Super PAC since Citizens United. The result is over $409,000,000,000 in Oil& Gas subsidies.
Serious issues to face! Luckily, some of the best minds are on it. Later in the debate, McKibben shares the good news: “We have the tools we need in order to adapt.“