It is encouraging to see discussions concerning climate change in the pages of the EXPLORER after being absent for over a half-decade, a period during which the vast majority of world governments have agreed to limit carbon emissions and at least nine medium- to major-petroleum companies, which do business in the United States, are currently factoring some kind of carbon emission restrictions into their long-range business plans.
Although we applaud the comments of Dr. Robert Yeats (January) and those of Dr. Lee Gerhard and Bob Shoup (April), we disagree with their suggestion to hold a “scientific debate” within AAPG over the science of climate change. We support the AAPG Executive Committee, which in disbanding the AAPG Committee on Climate Change issued a statement that the AAPG, an association dedicated to the science of petroleum geology, is not the best forum for technical discussion of atmospheric science, and feel such discussions should be left to organizations that deal with climate science on a day-to-day basis, such as the American Geophysical Union.
What we feel AAPG should be discussing within our membership and all our Divisions, is how to plan energy/mineral exploration and production strategies based on impending regulations or carbon taxes. In addition, we should be considering how AAPG Members design future infrastructure for rapidly rising sea levels and extreme weather events that are projected by models to increase in the future and thus have a greater impact on operations.
In our opinion, AAPG should also be part of a conversation refuting the public perception that immediately eliminating the petroleum industry will stop global warming.
For at least several decades to come, energy created by fossil fuels is necessary to not only power the global economy but also to be part of the renewable energy infrastructure as they are developed. AAPG needs to be part of the conversation on global energy use (hydrocarbon, coal, nuclear, geothermal and renewables) to help change the public perception that our industry is solely the problem and, instead, be considered part of the solution.
Consequently, we urge AAPG to hold forums, reestablish a committee or form special interest groups to discuss how AAPG should address the issue of global energy production in a dynamic environment and a changing climate.
In closing, there are three points that we, as petroleum professionals, should consider in the broader debate over climate change:
- Recognize that the long-term geological record shows fluctuations in climate and that, for the past 20,000 years, the Earth is coming out of a glacial period and hence there is naturally occurring glacier melting and subsequent sea level rise. During that time, some of the rates of sea level rise have far exceeded the current rate of sea level rise.
- Acknowledge that CO2 and methane introduced into the atmosphere through burning coal and oil, by deforestation, by raising livestock, etc., have made measurable contributions to the continued rise in global temperature.
- Our industry must strive to help raise the standard of living for the billions of people still relying on charcoal and animal dung for energy while also addressing the consensus agreement of both developed and developing nations at the 21st annual Conference of Parties to limit a rise in global temperatures to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
This is where AAPG should be part of the discussion.
Jeffrey B. Aldrich is Past President of AAPG’s Division of Environmental Geosciences President (2015-16); Randi Martinson is an AAPG Past President (2014-15); James M. Rine is an AAPG Emeritus Member; Jim Tucker is AAPG Treasurer for 2014-16.
The opinions expressed in the Commentary section do not necessarily reflect those of AAPG, its leadership, or the EXPLORER editorial staff, but are the writers' own.