Alex Epstein is a philosopher and author of ‘The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels’ and ‘Fossil Future’. In this interview, we discuss how energy abundance has enabled humans to flourish, whether climate mastery has made us unnaturally safe, and the need for more low-cost reliable energy.
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According to a recent survey for the UN, 64% of people believe that climate change is a global emergency. News reports are dominated by stories of floods, heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes and other events, highlighted as potential signs of a warming world. The implicit assumption is that urgent reductions in the use of fossil fuels are required to minimise the potential impacts.
But increasingly, a growing collective is questioning these opinions. Exploitation of fossil fuels is linked to civilisations’ rapid development in the 250 years since the industrial revolution. Yet, billions still lack access to adequate levels of energy. The concern is alternative energy sources won’t be able to meet current demands, let alone demands that aren’t currently being met.
Furthermore, there is scepticism regarding climate change projections and forecast impacts on societies. Those who hold such views are labelled as climate change ‘deniers’, a pejorative term meant to imply resistance to science and facts. This is emblematic of how combative and polarised the two sides of the debate have become. Some are now refusing to engage.
Perhaps, such division is understandable given the stakes. If global warming has the capacity to be an existential threat this century, then delays in curtailing fossil fuels could be catastrophic. Equally, if such warnings turn out to be wrong then we could be constraining the empowerment of billions of people. In our view, this is why we should remain engaged in the debate.