At South by Southwest this week, actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger argued that every single product made using fossil fuels should come with a warning label due to climate change. He suggested that oil companies are killing people by abetting the burning of fossil fuels, and that all products using fossil fuels should be marked as associated with hazards like tobacco.
“We’re going to go after them, and we’re going to be in there like an Alabama tick,” Schwarzenegger said. “Because to me it’s absolutely irresponsible to know that your product is killing people and not have a warning label on it, like tobacco. Every gas station on it, every car should have a warning label on it, every product that has fossil fuels should have a warning label on it.”
Schwarzenegger did not stop there. He announced his plans to sue oil companies for “first-degree murder” over climate change, garnering headlines.
“This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that,” Schwarzenegger told Politico in a podcast interview. “The oil companies knew from 1959 on, they did their own study that there would be global warming happening because of fossil fuels, and on top of it that it would be risky for people’s lives, that it would kill.”
This call for all fossil fuel products to have warning labels may be even more ridiculous than suing companies for murder, however. Hundreds of household items are made from petroleum, beyond its use in waxes and lubricants. A 2007 survey found that 72 percent of the American public did not know that conventional plastic is made from petroleum, predominantly oil.
Products using petroleum include: ink, upholstery, vitamin capsules, dashboards, skis, mops, umbrellas, nylon rope, shampoo, guitar strings, refrigerators, toys (LEGOs, for instance), glue, cameras, pajamas, purses, life jackets, luggage, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons, pillows, balloons, football helmets, footballs, roller-skate wheels, nail polish, panty hose, insect repellant, ice cube trays, trash bags, sun glasses, paint brushes, artificial limbs, perfumes, soap, shoes, slacks, DVDs, dice, surf boards, tents, telephones, drinking cups, milk jugs, Aspirin, lipstick, rubbing alcohol, shaving cream, garden hose, heart valves, hearing aids, and toilet seats.
According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of these things and more should come with a warning label that their construction will bring about the end of the world, or at least the “first-degree murder” of everyone who will die because of the alleged worsening of natural disasters attributable to the burning of fossil fuels.
According to Politico, the former governor said that this ridiculous measure “would raise awareness about fossil fuels and encourage people to look to alternative fuels and clean cars.”
Good luck finding all non-plastic materials for such a “clean car.” The plethora of petroleum products has enabled new kinds of wealth, and even if the science on climate change were settled — it is not — that would not mean the production of toothbrushes will bring about the end of the world.