© Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace
This week the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook
, saying that we are on the path for irreversible climate change. To me, it's personal.
When he was captured, American bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. He answered calmly: "Because that's where the money is."
I haven't thought of Sutton or his quote in a long time. But let me tell you why he sprang to mind this week.
Last week, on a slow rainy day in Oslo, I bought a new book by the climate scientist James Hansen. I knew Hansen's work was internationally renowned, however it was really the book's title that caught my attention: Storms of my Grandchildren.
Back home I read the first few chapters, with a picture and ode to the author's granddaughter, and his concern for her future in a time of climate change. Knowing I was in for an interesting read, I set the book down and picked up that day's newspaper, only to find an advertisement for the Norwegian state-owned oil company, Statoil, and its celebration of its recent discoveries in the North Sea. The ad read: "The new big oil finds will make many happy. Not least, our grandchildren."
In front of me were two clashing ideologies: The scientific and environmental side citing data and looking for solutions to the possible climate catastrophe – and industry's logic that our economy and lifestyle must be met with more fossil fuels.
This same clash was revealed to me on the west coast of Norway a few years ago, outside Statoil's headquarters. As a Greenpeace volunteer, I was campaigning against Statoil's development of the Canadian tar sands. When urging an executive that Statoil had the ethical and moral responsibility to pull out of the tar sands, he calmly looked at me and said in that devastatingly practical Scandinavian tone, "But that's where the oil is."
This week's IEA report calls for the urgent shift towards low-carbon and renewable energy economy. The report states that without immediate action, "the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be lost forever." What does that mean? Like the head of the IEA said: We have to leave oil before it leaves us.
Native cultures in North America used to base their decisions on how their actions would affect those living seven generations in the future. But extravagant pension funds for our grandchildren are no excuse for burning up the last remaining fossil fuels on the planet. Highly educated civil societies should be intellectual enough to agree. Every sector of society, from the individual to the political must now act to establish renewable energy infrastructure that can secure future economies, as well as environments.
Only then can our grandchildren truly weather any storm.
Ethan Gilbert, orginally from the US and now living in Norway is a volunteer for Greenpeace Norway.