The Green Question: Moral or Practical? - Onurcan Mısır

Environmental concerns and green energy have always been issues regarded with built-in moral and humanitarian aspects. In Western media, which simultaneously shapes and gets shaped by mass social media movements, it is clearly common to regard ‘going green’ as a moral and humanitarian necessity. Some news outlets even pointed to oil firms for lobbying against climate change policies and labeled them as evil in the past. However, it is clear that the situation is two-sided and many groups that advocate going green also are involved in lobbying and funding operations, which transforms the question from being a moral one to a practical one.

In her famous United Nations speech, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg accused companies and governments of stealing the dreams and the childhood of a 16-year-old girl and leading humanity to mass extinction, following her famous words ‘How dare you?’ While she might have a point, humanity has also seen in the past how pointing to others for being ‘inhumane’ may lead to catastrophes, and the fact that the person who did the job of pointing was 16 years old added to the moral dimension of the question by giving her the upper hand. The trend continued: News outlets continually pointed to oil firms that are being involved in lobbying activities, paying and being paid for their propaganda against green energy and climate change. One example of such news was of The Guardian, in which Chevron, BP, and ExxonMobil were said to be the biggest companies involved in “direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming, and have hindered governments globally in their efforts to implement policies.”

Even though the extent to which oil companies are involved in lobbying is most probably true, this situation alone does nothing to establish a morally wrong stance as argued by environmentalists, for they too are clearly involved in lobbying even with energy companies. According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence review of lobbying records, at least 23 energy firms and key industry trade associations cited the Green New Deal or resolutions calling for its adoption in first-quarter federal lobbying reports. Five of the 50 largest U.S. power companies by market capitalization (such as Ameren Corp., Exelon Corp., FirstEnergy Corp., Pinnacle West Capital Corp., and Vistra Energy Corp.) are on that list, according to S&P data.

All of them combined, they make up millions of dollars worth of public relations and advertising industries, similar to the work of oil lobbyists.

It is clear that being involved in lobbying activities don’t make good or evil itself, for we wouldn’t be able to clarify who is good and who is bad simply by looking at the money a group spends or receives. It may also be not that wise to deem a group inhumane simply because it lobbies for the consumption of a resource, but one must rather examine the motives between the ideas. Environmentalists, most of the time rightfully, emphasize that climate change is a real threat that has the horrifying potential of disrupting the balance of our planet and leading to a catastrophic future. Carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions clearly have to be reduced even simply for the sake of a healthier public. However, the implementation of this reduction must be so carefully made that it should give no harm because it actually carries another horrifying potential of doing so. It is an established fact that energy consumption also leads to healthier societies while financing the energy transformation means allocating a vast amount of money that can be used elsewhere for the society’s needs.

Barış Sanlı, in his article titled ‘New Green Imperialism,’ examines the burden put on developing countries by the energy transition process. While developing countries don’t have enough resources to finance this process, environmentalists continue their lobbying efforts for taxes, punishments, and outright bans for countries that fail to pursue energy transition. A transition under these conditions may do more good than harm to the ordinary citizens of relatively poor countries by putting an extra tax burden, and it should at least be properly calculated with every part’s opinions. Thus it is not necessarily a question of morality, but rather of practicality.

One should be aware of our globe’s problems and strive to find meaningful solutions. However, claiming one side of the argument to be humane and the other side evil does nothing to reach those solutions, and has the potential of damaging humanity altogether. While Greta Thunberg may be completely right about how the globe is at grave risk of extinction, it is not a great idea to deem Vladimir Putin completely wrong when he emphasizes the costs of energy transition and the possible burden on poor countries.