FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

How Fossil Fuels Pollute STEM Education

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has a message for policy makers: “Listen to the scientists.”

As an engineer, I was glad to hear that. But I also believe it’s also vital for scientists to be vigilant about whom they listen to.

For years, corporations funded junk science trying to undermine the climate consensus. Now, virtually all scientists agree that fossil fuels are heating the planet, so corporations are taking a new tack: peddling false solutions.

The fossil fuel industry has polluted not just our water, air, and soil, but our education system as well — especially the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. By 2015, for the first time in history, the private sector was investing moremoney in scientific research than the federal government.

This is not a coincidence. It’s a strategy.

According to the Center for International Environmental Law, fossil fuel corporations have been collaborating with prestigious academic institutions to push research away from the root causes of climate change (like fossil fuel use) and towards fake solutions like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

CCS is a form of geoengineering that can sound ecologically friendly. It aims at developing technology that would “capture” excess carbon from the atmosphere, or from fossil fuel plants, and store it in the ground.

CCS has a big caveat: It means fossil fuel plants stay open instead of closing. And even worse, the captured carbon can then be used in dangerous drilling methods like fracking. According to researchers, CCS could increase the production of oil in the U.S. alone by an additional 923 million barrels by 2040.

In other words, CCS means more carbon emissions and more ecological destruction.

Fossil fuel companies love to fund CCS projects. Exxon Mobil alone has invested $1.25 billion in STEM programs since 2000. The company says it has collaborated with 80 universities around the world, pushing false solutions like CCS into the minds of young scientists and engineers.

Other polluting industries love the technology, too.

The New York Times reports that Lynda and Steward Resnick, the billionaire owners of the company that owns Fiji water, donated $750 million to the California Institute of Technology to further “environmental study, much of it focused on technological solutions to combat climate change” — like CCS.

The bottled water industry, of course, is a massive consumer of petrochemicals like plastic.

These initiatives seek to delude young scientists that climate change can be solved by technology alone, rather than addressing root causes — like an economic system that rewards greed and pollution.

Don’t get me wrong. We do need to find ways to capture excess carbon in the atmosphere. Personally, I support using an ancient technology developed many millennia ago: trees.

According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, restoring 350 million hectares of forest by 2030 would “sequester up to 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.” If done respectfully toward indigenous communities that rely on forests, this would also benefit millions of people who rely on the biodiversity of these ecosystems.

How else can young scientists and engineers address climate change? By becoming politically active and advocating for real solutions like the Green New Deal.

New technology isn’t enough to save the planet.What’s really required is a mass movement demanding climate action rooted in equity, community, and urgency.

It’s time to stop the fossil fuel industry from polluting our planet — and our engineering schools.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 23, 2020
Richard Moser
Ten Best Messages for Waging Peace
Thomas S. Harrington
The Catalan Crisis Threatens to Reopen a Debate That the EU’s Power Brokers Thought They Had Long Ago Quashed
Martha Rosenberg
SARS-Like Disease Could Become a Pandemic
Ron Jacobs
A Cesspool of Constitutional Nonsense-Impeachment in the Senate
Gaither Stewart
One Hundred Years: the Proletariat in Search of a Class
Nick Pemberton
Final Phallus
Russell Mokhiber
PBS Public Editor and the Disease of Contempt
Thomas M. Magstadt
The Myth of the Free Market
Mandy Smithberger
How the Military-Industrial Complex Gets Away With Murder in Contract After Contract
Russell Rickford
The Paradox of Populism
Howard Lisnoff
Action Research: Acquiescing to the Awful
George Ochenski
Comes Now the Winter of Our Discontent
Binoy Kampmark
Diminishing Returns: Calculated Misery in Air Travel
Nick Licata
Do Republicans Have More to Lose Than Democrats in the Impeachment Trial?
Dean Baker
The Myth of China’s Population Crisis
John Kendall Hawkins
Steal This Whistle
January 22, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Media and the Military Mindset
John Davis
The Real Megxit Deal
John O'Kane
The Obama Legacy: Reform Versus Revolution
Kenneth Surin
The “Evolving” Scotty Morrison From Marketing
Martin Billheimer
“The Cops & the Klan Go Hand in Hand!”
Thomas Knapp
Executive Power: Alan Dershowitz’s Imagination Versus the Constitution
Jacob G. Hornberger
Egypt and the Destruction of Civil Liberties in America
Justin Podur
The People of Colombia are Cracking the Walls of War and Authoritarianism
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson
Our Final Decade to Get Climate Policy Right
Jonah Raskin
Terence Hallinan: Fighter for the People and for the Legalization of Marijuana 
Colin Todhunter
Challenging the Flawed Premise Behind Pushing GMOs into Indian Agriculture
January 21, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Warmonger Cotton Accuses Antiwar Think Tank of Anti-Semitism
John Feffer
Trump Makes Space Great Again
Patrick Cockburn
The US and Iran’s Perpetual Almost-War is Unsustainable – and Will End Badly
James C. Nelson
Another Date That Will Live in Infamy: 10 Years After Citizens United
Robert Fisk
Iran Will be Changed Forever by Admitting Its Great Mistake, Unlike the West Which Ignores Its Own Misdeeds
Dean Baker
Did Shareholders’ Benefit by Paying Boeing’s Fired CEO $62 Million?
Susan Roberts
The Demise of the Labour Party and the Future For UK Socialism
Binoy Kampmark
Janus-Faced on Climate Change: Microsoft’s Carbon Vision
David Levin
The Teamster Revolt Against the Hoffa Era
Victor Grossman
Defender and Spearheads
Russell Mokhiber
BS Public Editor and the Disease of Contempt
Tiffany Muller
Get the Money Out of Politics: 10 Years After Citizens United
Laura Flanders
Iowa is Not the Twitterverse
Graham Peebles
Education: Expanding Purpose
Elliot Sperber
Handball in Brooklyn 
January 20, 2020
Paul Street
Trump Showed Us Who He Was Before He Became President
Eric Mann
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Ipek S. Burnett
MLK and the Ghost of an Untrue Dream
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail