At a time when prominent public officials often ignore science and dismiss politically inconvenient facts as “fake news,” the catastrophic consequences of such willful ignorance must be honestly acknowledged.

COVID-19 aside, two examples in America’s energy policy are noteworthy, each causing precarious environmental harms.

First is the blatantly false notion that fossil-fuel fracking should be condoned. Fracking is not only the most environmentally destructive method for extracting oil and gas, it is also the most expensive — subsidized by both taxpayers and “cheaper” methods of producing oil and gas (while fossil-fuel prices exclude environmental impacts.)

As widely documented, fracking poisons water supplies, makes residential plumbing systems flammable, and causes highly destructive earthquakes. Multiple scientific studies link the toxic chemicals used by fracking operations to serious human-health threats.

The second example is burning wood and other organic materials for heat. Driven by the misclassification of such fuels as “renewable,” wood pellets have become a major export for timber companies. Yet, reputable studies conclude that burning wood produces more pollution, including heat-trapping greenhouse gases, than coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of Southeast timberland have been clear-cut to produce millions of tons of pellets. Clear-cutting erodes soil, threatening humans and wildlife with contaminated rivers and streams, and the loss of trees sacrifices their vital carbon-storing benefits — further accelerating the disastrous overheating of Earth’s climate.

Ignoring facts has become increasingly self-destructive. Until the consequences of our actions are reflected in public policy, essential global life-support systems will continue being irreversibly endangered.

David Kyler

Center for a Sustainable Coast

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