Climate activist Michael E. Mann believes Australia’s prime minister and America’s new president both pose an “existential threat” to humanity, thanks to their embrace of fossil fuels. Mann, a professor of meteorology at Penn State, has co-written a Guardian op-ed opining about the Trump administration’s focus on an all-of-the-above energy approach that includes clean coal. Even though Trump made energy independence a tent pole in his campaign.

Mann is also worried that President Donald Trump will leave the Paris climate accord, even though it’s neither a treaty nor binding.

He believes this is the direct opposite of President Obama’s global warming agenda, which focused on the “decarbonization” of the U.S. economy. But this green agenda has hardly succeeded in recent years, with renewables increasing by only two percent since 2009 while costing taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s a harsh truth that compelled Obama to admit that natural gas is preferable to other choices.

Sticker shock

Nations that have employed widespread wind and solar farms, like those now in use in southern Australia, are reeling from sticker shock.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has begun a campaign to build more coal-fired power plants. His actions come in response to the high electricity prices Australians are now paying. And renewables like wind and solar are proving unreliable, intermittent, and incompatible with traditional power grids. Ironically, coal-fired power plants are now burning as clean as natural gas-fired plants thanks to advanced scrubbing technologies.

Utility companies have invested billions in making coal cleaner, yet Mann still likens fossil fuel advocates to big tobacco lackeys, whom he believes are misleading the public about the dangers of man-made climate change. He says that 150 years of climate change science is under “direct assault” from lobbyists, politicians, and other factions, except the study of man-made climate change is still in its infancy.

Yes, it’s true—the theory of human-caused warming was only introduced to the general public in 1988 by climatologist James Hansen and only became a crisis after faulty computer models gained preeminence over scientific observation.

More than just fuel

What Mann and his co-author don’t tell their readers is how fossil fuels have generated: plastics (iPhones, drinking bottles, water purification), synthetic rubber (tires, wires, shoes), cosmetics (waxes, oils, perfumes), lubricants (motor oil, personal lubricants), medications (resulting from benzene), cleaning products (polish, dish and laundry detergents), asphalt (11 million miles of road), fabrics (nylon, acrylic, spandex, polyester), and even food (fertilizers, pesticides, preservatives, flavorings, higher yields).

So while Mann is comparing fossil fuels to tobacco, he has regrettably omitted its many advantageous uses. Even solar panels and wind farm components are made from oil derivatives— for example, the massive electrical demands needed to forge the steel used in wind turbines. A sea change toward oil and gas only began at the beginning of the 20th century, followed by the introduction of electricity, affordable cars, paved roads, and the Industrial Revolution.

Life in the dark

Less-developed countries, which lack access to oil and gas, live in abject poverty, often relying on wood or dung to cook food.

They travel miles to bring water back to villages that have no access to cheap fuel, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. It is an existence filled with perpetual hunger and one that relies heavily on aid from developed countries that flourish thanks to sturdy fossil fuel power.

Mann doesn’t want you to know that more people have been lifted out of poverty as a result of fossil fuels, or that "decarbonizing the world" would ensure a global disaster for humanity. He might learn this, though, if he spent more time refraining from political activism and misplaced apocalyptical rhetoric.