The Audacity of Hype

As headlines go, the title of Tom Steyer’s recent op-ed in The Washington Post, “Can progress on climate change keep up with its quickening pace,” is certainly alarming, and sets the scene nicely for a 677-word roller coaster which takes us from one doomsday scenario to the next.

But here’s the key point that he dances around for the entire op-ed: they are scenarios. The scientists he references are all unsure of the speed, scope and scale of the phenomenon they are studying. The whole op-ed is littered with hypotheticals and assumptions.

Yet despite these assumptions, he is certain on one point: whatever the future holds, fossil fuels –  and the oil and gas industry that goes with it – must be consigned to the scrapheap.

In an op-ed fueled by hype, this is perhaps the most hyperbolic statement of them all: to remain prosperous, we must kill the industry which has lifted billions worldwide out of poverty and provides affordable, reliable energy to millions in the U.S. alone.

While we are not blind to the effects of climate change, the thought that this green-energy investor’s solution to our uncertain future does not involve the manufacturer of prosperity is an alarming one, to say the least.

It’s alarming not purely because he wants to do away with an entire industry based on his say-so, but because of the hypocrisy involved: if Mr Steyer really wants to lead by example, he should divest himself from the lucrative Asian coal mines and coal-fired power plants his own investments helped get up and running.

We all have to face this uncertain future together, but for us to do that we all need a seat at the table and have our opinions heard. What we do not need are inflated opinions, hype and hypocrisy dominating the discussion. This op-ed is full of all three.