Buy a packet of cigarettes and the label on the side will tell you all about the health risks (in some countries, there will also be a picture of a guy with a hole in his throat, or something similarly gruesome). Buy a gallon of gas and, well, nothing.
A group of activists in the San Francisco Bay Area thinks the difference between tobacco and gasoline isn't that great, given that climate change is a pretty world-changing side effect of fossil fuel consumption. Both cause irreparable harm and both should be labeled as such, says the local chapter of the grassroots climate organization, 350.org.
The group has a petition campaign to get local officials to pass a new city ordinance that would mandate gas station owners to inform patrons that burning gasoline causes global warming, and that the city has a climate plan to reduce emissions.
"CO2 emissions represent a menace to the future habitability of our planet, and oil companies should no longer be able to sell their product with impunity," argues campaign manager Jamie Brooks. "Municipalities have a moral obligation to disclose the risks of these emissions to consumers, and warning labels would be the best way to do this."
In a presentation, the 350.org group argues that labels are a way of "problematizing" climate change. One the main reasons little is being done on the issue, they believe, is that the effect seems a long way off. Consumers are not encouraged to account for their choices in the present day.
Brooks insists that the point isn't to demonize pump customers, but rather to make them more aware of the consequences of fossil fuels. “The goal is to create a signal saying, ‘You need to change your behavior,’” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.