A while back I was speaking to a major pipeline company and was asked how they should engage on the climate issue. Here’s my answer (lightly edited):
Why engage? You’re a company that exists so that people can consume a certain product. When they consume that product, there’s a byproduct of CO2, and people are concerned about the consequences of that byproduct. Many people think it’s an overwhelming priority to minimize it, which means to put you out of business.
You need to take a position, and I think you need to define a position that your company’s management actually believes. If you think about it one way and talk about it another, I think that’s wrong and it will be very awkward.
Then, when you talk about the climate issue, don’t just share your conclusions, but how you think of the issue. I recommend that companies should have as part of their values a commitment to scientific thinking, a concern for environmental quality, a commitment to cost/benefit analysis, and an overall goal of promoting human flourishing. Then, when you talk about climate, you can reference those values to show how you reach your conclusions.
The most important thing is to reframe the discussion in a pro-human way. What fossil fuel opponents want is to turn it into a debate over whether we have an impact on climate. Their framework is that our goal should be to minimize our impact on nature and so the ideal is to have no impact on climate.
If you frame things from a human perspective, then it’s really a debate on what we should do about energy. The impact on climate is part of how we evaluate fossil fuels, which is part of deciding what to do about energy.
If our goal is to maximize human flourishing, then our actual ideal is not no climate impact, but making sure we’re completely protected from climate. That’s what actually matters to human beings.
And the number one thing for climate protection is industrialization–which requires a lot of cheap, plentiful, reliable energy. Let’s say, for instance, there’s someone in India, it’s 120° in the summer, and they just have a little fan. The “green” solution is to de-industrialize the world so that instead of 120°, it’s 119°.
No, the solution is to get them an air conditioner. That’s the first thing. Allow them to achieve industrialization and energy abundance through using fossil fuels. Then we can talk about 120° or 119°.
The Human Flourishing Project: Seeking stimulation vs. seeking nourishment
On the latest episode of The Human Flourishing Project I discuss a concept I’ve been refining this week as I’ve been sick: the tendency to seek short-term stimulation when we’re uncomfortable—and why we should seek “nourishment” instead.