2014 Earth Week

Carbon Emissions Awareness

For Earth Week, a group of students made an art display in Paresky to show the volume of carbon emitted by a member of the Williams College community per day.

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Michael Klare on “The Carbon Curse: Resisting the Addictive Lure of Fossil Fuels”

On April 22, 2014, Michael Klare, Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Petroleum Dependency, spoke about the addictive lure of carbon and his thoughts on what we can do about it. Klare began his talk by discussing how we, as a society, are already losing the fight to prevent the effects of climate change despite knowing that the principal cause of global warming is greenhouse gases and that two-thirds of those greenhouse gases come form fossil fuels. According to Klare, between now and 2040, the global carbon emissions is set to increase by 56%, and we need to act now against the irresistible lure of fossil fuels which he calls “the carbon curse.” We have created a civilization that is dependent on a product, carbon, that is destructive to human society.

Although there are many different ways to combat climate change and many different people involved in climate change, Klare views fossil fuel companies as the greatest enemies of our time. He said the companies have been profiting immensely and do not have any plans on changing anytime soon. Furthermore, the companies actively engage in measures to counteract any groups or people who are undermining the efforts of the fossil fuel companies to profit. At one point in time, people thought peak oil was going to force these companies to seek out alternatives, but with vast improvement in carbon extraction technology that theory no longer holds true. Unfortunately, these new technologies are even more detrimental to the environment as they push the boundaries of the natural world.

Klare argued that it was about time that people and the government viewed climate change as an important foreign policy issue as it is a threat to human survival and not just an environmental problem. Klare also framed climate change as a public health problem on a global scale. He advocated for an anti-carbon strategy that viewed carbon as a toxic and hazardous threat, like cigarettes in the United States, so that individuals would make the decision to liberate themselves. Klare also emphasized the importance of an institution, such as Williams College, setting goals in carbon emissions reduction and divest from fossil fuel companies. Klare argued that climate change needed to be understood as a moral and ethical matter. After his talk, Klare opened up the floor to a lively discussion about the different strategies of curing society’s addiction to carbon.

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Michael Klare

By Helen Song ’14