Tuesday, May 16, 2023

How Big Oil is manipulating the way you think about climate change



By Kathleen Dean Moore 

Published May 13, 2023 10:00AM (EDT) 


This practice became the namesake of one of the best-known types of fallacies, the red herring fallacy. As a philosophy professor, this is how I explain the fallacy to my students: If the argument is not going your opponent's way, a common strategy — though a fallacious and dishonorable one — is to divert attention from the real issue by raising an issue that is only tangentially related to the first.

If our collective philosophical literacy were better, we might notice that this fallacy seems to be working spectacularly well for the fossil-fuel industry, the petrochemical industry, and a bunch of other bad actors who would like to throw us off the trail that would lead us fully to grasp their transgressions. We shouldn't keep falling for it.

But we do. Time after time, the real issue stands before us, and we find ourselves baying after some side issue of far less importance.


Another example of this subterfuge, also from the fossil fuel world, is the idea of carbon sequestration. How can we capture the carbon dioxide that is spewing into the atmosphere? Embed it in concrete blocks, engineers propose. Pipe it to underground caverns, store it in algae blooms or marshes or timber-frame skyscrapers.

Obviously, we need to remove excess carbon dioxide from the air if we want Earth to remain habitable. But the best, fastest way to reduce the carbon dioxide load of the atmosphere is to stop burning fossil fuels — not to spend billions of dollars developing an entire new industry devoted to sequestering carbon in all kinds of complicated ways. Close down the coal plants. Phase out oil and gas drilling. Get those brilliant engineers back on track, addressing the real question of how we are going to stop oil and gas drilling, and soon.


 [In the last example in the article, I would say the red herring is to convince people to depend on the fossil fuel industry to fix the problem, instead of encouraging people to use less energy.  The fossil fuel companies do need to make their own changes, but in should be in addition to our changing our habits.  The companies produce their product because we use it.  If we change our habits, we can make an immediate change.  In addition, there will be other benefits.  Eg.,  If we use fewer plastic bags, which are made of oil and also require energy to make them, we will reduce the pollution from their manufacture and the pollution from their breakdown in our environment.]


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