Anti-fossil fuel activists mustered a majority of shareholders to approve a measure to override the management of the world’s largest energy companies on an issue relating to climate change. As Bloomberg reports in The Church of England Takes on Climate Change—and Generates a 17 Percent Return, the activists won a proxy fight to require ExxonMobil “to provide a detailed report on how curbing climate change could affect its business.” The report has been steadfastly opposed by ExxonMobil’s management, which “argued that its current processes were sufficient to test its holdings for risk.”
Is this investor maneuver a backdoor attempt by ideological climate catastrophists to hamper Exxon’s business of producing and delivering fossil fuels? It’s hard to imagine that serious investors would want to harm their own investments, and some big investors are behind the initiative, which passed with nearly two thirds majority support. So maybe there's legitimate reasons to demand these reports. For myself, I wonder how Exxon is supposed to figure out how technological innovation or political trends are going to play out, especially since there is so much disagreement on the extent to which human activity such as fossil fuel burning has on climate change (contrary to environmentalist dogma, there is no consensus on this question—97% or otherwise). After all, “curbing climate change” means coercive government action, which means predicting future political direction in America and around the world. Add to this the always uncertain and surprising direction of technological and scientific advance. And forecasting “how curbing climate change could affect its business” must require virtual omniscience from Exxon.
But, I’m not anything close to being an expert on the matter. I’m just surmising.
One thing for sure is that for some, however, it is an ideological issue. Otherwise, why wouldn't these so-called “socially conscious” investors simply refuse to buy Exxon stock? As Bloomberg reports,
The Church of England rallied dozens of U.S. religious investors—from the Maryknoll Sisters to the Unitarian Universalist Association—to back the Exxon shareholder resolution,, along with giant institutions such as Hermes Investment Management, AXA Investment Managers, and CalPERS. It won 62.1 percent of the vote. Exxon’s board will now reconsider its opposition to the measure.
“This is a vital ethical issue and relates to our stewardship of the environment and our care for the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, who will be those most impacted by climate change,” Mason says. The Church of England fund is a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment, which are backed by the United Nations.
Humans have always faced climate danger. Nature is brutal to human life, causing a perpetual state of crisis for unindustrialized human life. In a real sense, humans have always faced a climate crisis. Always, that is, until capitalistic individual freedom unleashed modern industrial progress over the last 250 years, powered by reliable affordable mass-scale energy led by fossil fuels. Today, humans are safer, longer-lived, healthier, more prosperous, and happier than ever—but only to the extent they participate in freedom and industrial progress.
The religionists claim to “care for the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.” But they don’t need protection from climate change. They need what humans everywhere have always needed—protection from nature’s inherent dangers and the ability to adapt to nature and/or adapt nature to human needs. If the religionists really cared about the poor, they would work to make them non-poor so they can live better. Put another way, the poor don’t need a “stable” climate, with all of its dangers. They need massive amounts of energy of the kind great companies like ExxonMobil can provide, and the freedom to put it to use for their own benefit, so they can flourish along with the industrialized peoples.
Of course, the Church, from the Pope on down, are generally opposed to improving the lives of the poor. They worship poverty. That’s how you get into heaven—“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” They think a “vow of poverty” is a virtue. Where would the champions of the “poorest and most vulnerable” be if the poorest and most vulnerable entered the kingdom of fossil fueled industrial flourishing and became “rich?”
This, in fact, is exactly what has been happening. Freedom has been advancing around the globe, and people are choosing fossil fuels to drive progress in their lives. As a result, world poverty is at an all-time low, and life is getting better for billions of people even as fossil fuel use expands and climate change continues its mild and manageable pace.
Climate catastrophists singlemindedly focus on one thing: climate is changing, man is contributing, and to that extent it is bad. There’s absolutely no balance. But I ask, if climate is changing, and humans are contributing—so what? Why does it follow that climate change requires action to curb it? What are the benefits of climate change and more atmospheric carbon dioxide? What energy sources best promote human flourishing? What will happen to human life if fossil fuels are forcibly curbed and increasingly outlawed, given that fossil fuels drive human betterment? What about the devastating negatives of solar and wind—namely, dilutedness and intermittency? Where does nuclear, the safest, cleanest energy source and the only currently available technology capable of fully replacing fossil fuel for electricity generation, fit into the “solution.” None of these kinds of questions are ever asked. The warriors against fossil fuels don’t care what effect their policies would have on human well-being.
Those who care about actually improving the lives of the poor, including the religionists, would promote capitalism and more reliable energy like fossils and nuclear, not ‘protect’ the poor from fossil fuels by peddling unreliable “renewable energy” and being a thorn in the side of great humanitarian companies like ExxonMobil.
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels—Alex Epstein