Oil companies benefit us tremendously by providing a plenty of affordable energy and raw materials for products without which our lives would be shorter, harder, and poorer.

The dominant narrative promoted by environmental activist groups—spread by the mainstream media—is that human activity is causing catastrophic climate change through CO2 emissions that raise the average global temperature. This rising temperature is claimed to cause rising sea levels and floods, forest fires, and other disastrous weather events (hurricanes, tsunamis), with costly rebuilding saddled on the survivors.

While this narrative is being challenged by those climate scientists who have not sold their integrity to obtain government research funding (dependent on adhering to the narrative), the power of the mainstream media is significant. Most of them have abandoned objective journalism for environmental advocacy long time ago, and even their most educated consumers are embracing the narrative without skepticism.

Take Canadian municipalities in British Columbia as a case in point. According to an article in the National Post, Victoria and 15 other municipalities in the province have written letters to “20 of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, ‘demanding accountability’ for their contribution to climate change.”

The activist organization behind the letter-writing campaign is West Coast Environmental Law, based in Vancouver. According to the National Post, a staff lawyer claimed that multinational oil companies such as Exxon Mobil “have known about the inherent risk of burning fossil fuels for decades without alerting the public.” While the lawyer acknowledged that consumers who drive fossil fuel-powered vehicles also bear responsibility, he argued that oil companies should pay more because they supply most of the fossil fuels.

The B.C. municipalities have embraced the letter-writing campaign of West Coast Environmental Law because they are directly affected by coastal flooding and forest fires attributed to climate change and the oil companies’ production of fossil fuels. They want the oil companies compensate for costs of dealing with floods, forest fires, and other weather events.

These demands are completely and utterly immoral.

They are immoral because they are not grounded in facts. There is no evidence—only the narrative—of man-made catastrophic climate change. Human activity has slightly increased greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions in the last century or so, but their impact on the average global temperature has been negligible. (More CO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial for plant growth, which helps feed more people).

The climate changes all the time, and it does so primarily from natural causes, such as the cycles of volcanic eruptions and the associated emission of ashes that can cool Earth’s temperature. Another major impact on climate are the cycles of sun spots; their disappearance also causes global cooling.

The municipalities’ demands for compensation from oil companies are immoral also because they are unjust. The oil companies benefit us tremendously by providing a plenty of affordable energy and raw materials for products without which our lives would be shorter, harder, and poorer.

The values the oil companies provide far outweigh negative consequences of fossil fuel production, such as some pollution (which can be cleaned up or eliminated much more efficiently, thanks to the wealth that oil companies create). If oil companies are required to divert resources to paying for costs of alleged climate change damage, their ability to provide affordable energy and other products that benefit our lives is significantly curtailed.

This brings me to the last argument as to why the municipalities’ claims for “climate-change compensation” from the oil companies are immoral. Such claims, if successful, hurt the municipalities’ residents. Without, or with less affordable, fossil fuel energy and other products, their ability to survive and flourish would be diminished.

As for the ability to deal with the events such as floods and forest fires that the naturally dangerous climate causes, it would be significantly reduced without the fossil fuel energy and products. As Alex Epstein shows in his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, it is the countries with access to fossil fuel energy and products that can deal with weather events much more efficiently with far fewer, or no, human casualties and with faster rescue and re-building efforts. For a contrast, consider the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2010 tsunami in Haiti.

If the British Columbia municipalities (and the activist organization urging them) care about human survival and flourishing, they should rescind their immoral demands of oil companies and thank these companies instead—as should the rest of us—for all they do to benefit our well-being and prosperity

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Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. She has lectured and conducted seminars on business ethics to undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students, and to various corporate audiences for over 20 years both in Canada and abroad. Before earning her Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, she helped turn around a small business in Finland and worked for a consulting firm in Canada. Jaana’s research on technological change and innovation, value creation by business, executive decision-making, and business ethics has been published in various academic and professional journals and books. “How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

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