Independent, 20 November 2015:
The Chief Executive of Oil and Gas UK claims that the industry has “never been in receipt of government subsidy” (letter, 18 November). Well, that might be true of direct subsidies, but the fossil fuel industry has been using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for its waste products for over 200 years, and it is society that is paying for the consequences.
Earlier this year the IMF calculated this cost at $5.3 trillion annually, of which one quarter is attributable to the effects of climate change on agriculture, and the rest to the medical costs of outdoor air pollution. Even this figure, however, does not capture the enormity of what is likely to happen with unchecked global warming.
For example, the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is already showing signs of irreversible decline, and when that dissolves sea levels will rise by 20 feet. Greenland will add another 23 feet. So how does the City of London, or the New York Stock Exchange compute the financial costs of burning fossil fuels when they are both 13 metres under water.
The problem was best expressed by Tim Wirth, Under secretary of State for Global Affairs under President Clinton, when he stated: “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.”
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire