This is one of the most insidious causes of global warming. While perhaps only the most flagrant conflicts-of-interest ever come to our conscious attention, most of us are aware that they exist throughout human society. And if you examine your own life carefully, you will likely find you have a conflict-of-interst of your own (or two or three…). But the conflicts-of-interest we are talking about here are so massive as to be properly called crimes against humanity, or more aptly perhaps, crimes against ecology, for the earth does not exist only for the benefit of the human species.
When a politician from an oil or coal producing state or province denies the reality of global warming, it is clear to most of us that they have a conflict-of-interest working. When a scientist is financed by the petroleum producers lobby organization to project an opinion contrary to the scientific consensus as to the reality and human influence on global warming, there is a clear conflict-of-interest. When a calling itself the Competitive Enterprise Institute, funded by Exxon-Mobile, produces and airs advertisements attempting to muddy the waters about the consensus on the reality and human causes of global warming, that is also a clear conflict-of-interest.
Of course, the funding channel can be obscured by the adoption of benign or even ‘green’-sounding organization name. Such industry funded front organizations abound. Such conflicts-of-interest can not easily be changed, but they can be resisted. And even your knowledge that they exist can forearm you in your quest to distinguish reliable information from the deceptive kind.
But there are also personal conflicts-of-interest which affect global warming. And as individuals we can examine our own habits, find them, and do what we can to change them. For instance, it is a conflict-of-interest to have to choose between a cheaper product which is more polluting or the production or use of which is more energy wasteful, than to buy a more expensive equivalent product which is less harmful or even beneficial for the environment, and less wasteful of resources and energy. But we have as a society been so conditioned to choose the cheaper alternative, that we have ended up institutionalizing bad choices. Thus people will buy a cheaper incandescent light bulb, which wastes upwards of 90% of the energy it consumes as heat, before they will buy a compact fluorescent equivalent, which may cost more up front, but will save the difference in cost many times over during the relative lifetimes of the two alternatives.
Seeing this tendency clearly as a personal conflict-of-interest may help you learn to see these invisible, destructive habits in the many forms they take in your life and the lives of those around you. If we are to reverse the global warming trend, if we are even to reduce it significantly, we must root out these conflicts-of-interest in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We must learn to see the world in a new way, and behave in a wiser manner.