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Berkeley considers fitting its gas pumps with "climate change warning labels"

Burn fossil fuels at your own risk


Lindsay Abrams
June 20, 2014 12:13AM (UTC)

Scientists know that CO2 emissions contribute to global warming, and they're just as sure about that as they are that smoking cause cancer. So if cigarettes are required to post warning labels reminding consumers of the risk, why not gas pumps?

The labels, in 350 Bay Area's conception, would be 3'' by 3'', and look something like this:

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They might also remind consumers that the state "has determined that global warming caused by CO2 emissions poses a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources and the environment of California."

The California-based environmental group has been trying to get climate change warning labels affixed on gas pumps for some time now, and the city of Berkeley is finally considering the idea. The L.A. Times reports:

A citizens panel — the Community Environmental Advisory Commission — last week approved the concept of the stickers, which would be affixed to gas pump handles. The panel is crafting recommendations to the City Council, where two council members have agreed to press an ordinance requiring the warnings. The city’s citizen Energy Commission is scheduled to vote on it in July.

"It's a perfect opportunity to remind people that there are greenhouse gas impacts and there are alternatives," said Councilman Kriss Worthington, who sponsored an initial measure but then moved to send it to both commissions to vet "all possible objections" from the petroleum industry.

Here's guessing that the petroleum industry is indeed going to have some strong objections. In a letter to the city's Planning & Development Department last week, Catherine H. Reheis-Boyd, the president of Western States Petroleum Association, said the labels would be a violation of the First Amendment. "To call such messages 'warnings' is to imply that such opinions should be accorded the status of 'fact,'" she wrote. "But the messages are not 'purely factual and uncontroversial information' — they touch on issues that represent some of the most contentious issues in existence today."

She's right, of course, that the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is contentious -- but only because people like Reheis-Boyd, in whose interest it is for the facts of global warming to remain a matter of opinion, are making it so. So that's one "possible objection" the council shouldn't have a problem shutting down.


Lindsay Abrams

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