The United States’ response to the global commodities shock that the Ukraine invasion has exacerbated is alarming. The United States is doubling down on energy policies that will make the country more vulnerable to hyperinflation and that will increase dependence on global expansionist powers for commodities that are critical to our country’s economy, security and stability. If people think that all that Russia needs to weaponize fossil fuels against other nations is to control a little bit of the global fossil fuel supply, which this recent  Economist article uses as a pretense for arguing to speed up the U.S.’ transition to “clean energy,” wait until we find out that the solar, wind, and battery supply chain and critical materials is controlled by China to a far, far greater degree than Russia controls oil and gas exports. I’m afraid that there is a large gap between today’s global energy reality and today’s climate mitigation ambition on campuses. Many of the serious effects of climate change in the world cannot be stopped by the U.S. and Europe alone simply shifting their energy mix to a larger proportion of solar and wind energy. It is concerning that nobody is questioning or trying to understand why things are happening right now, and fewer question whether their own views or work contributed to the situation and may continue to cause harm. The time is now to correct our course.

We must confront a harsh question — is the premature suppression of domestic oil and gas production in the U.S. a more urgent and consequential threat to U.S. and global stability, security and development than climate change? For one, Americans need to prioritize keeping shelter, food and transportation costs from getting out of control. Inflation is here and is arguably just taking hold. Nitrogen fertilizer, which relies on natural gas, whose prices are rising, as an input, is seeing prices spike which adds to concerns of a global food supply crisis. We are on the brink of global famine due in large part to energy shortages and those in power in the West are threatening to throw fuel on the fire by wanting to tax energy producers (raises costs for consumers and disincentivizes supply increases from producers)  and refuse to remove barriers to energy production (i.e. leasing issues, harmful ESG push). We can’t control all of the variable inputs that go into the final prices of things like food, but we can, to a material extent, control keeping energy costs as low as we can. Typically, shelter, food and transportation are the biggest out-of-budget costs for low to middle income individuals and families in the U.S. (this can vary — i.e. things like healthcare and loan payments can certainly crack into the top 3 for a lot of people). 

We have been served up the illusion of thinking we are able to save the world from the effects of climate change without international cooperation to slowly for years trade away more of the security and stability of the United States and Europe. The intellectual infrastructure of climate action must be balanced much more with national security and stability interests, as well as the interests of low- to middle-income countries. Another under-considered issue here is how the U.S. is meddling in the development plans of low-income countries. The U.S. is now limiting support for overseas coal and oil-based power generation projects but leaving a narrow window available for natural gas projects in low income countries that pass a rigorous screening process. Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently described energy “transition” a “curious term” when applied globally, given the energy shortfalls in Nigeria and a large portion of the world. 

Osinbajo continued, “Despite the urgent need for energy in countries like Nigeria, we are already seeing wealthier nations issue blanket bans against public investment in fossil fuels, including natural gas.”

Out of a number of actions we should all probably take, none is perhaps more important than calling your representatives and voicing real concern. Have them support, in the most environmentally and socially responsible way, short-term oil and gas production expansion in the United States. Give low-income countries more of a voice to have their development needs met and allow for more consideration of fossil fuel projects to meet those needs. 

Let’s support each other, settle differences and have some fun being the heroes that we are all capable of being. Everything we claim to care about at this university is at stake in the face of massive shocks to the global economy and U.S. security and stability. Peace. The preservation and expansion of human rights. Racial equity. Poverty elimination. Reproductive rights. Clean water and air. Food. Transportation. Shelter. Fighting the effects of climate change as best as we can. It is time to start sounding some alarms. Resist taking frustrations out on each other. Ask questions. Embrace the short-term discomfort that comes with embracing harsh realities. There is too much at stake for us not to unite and act. 

Affordable and reliable access to energy should be a human right. It is key to human flourishing. Fossil fuels have protected many from things like extreme temperatures, storms, floods and droughts through their role in making resources like irrigation systems, modern buildings and central heating possible.

Patrick Dempsey is an MPH candidate at the Yale School of Public Health. He can be reached at