By CARRIE HACKENBERGER

“Let’s be clear: the frequent comparison of the fossil fuel and tobacco industries is nonsense. Fossil fuels are a valuable energy source that has done yeoman service for humankind. One gallon (3.7 liters) of gasoline (petrol) contains the equivalent of 400 hours of labor by a healthy adult. Fossil fuels raised living standards in much of the world.”

– James Hansen, former NASA scientist and climate activist

For as long as they have been converted into fuel, natural gas and oil have played an outsized role in shaping the world. Over the past 150 years, billions of people have risen from abject poverty, medicine has made (and continues to make) extraordinary progress, and travel has become faster, easier and more world-connecting than ever before. These developments are scarcely coincidental, and one would be hard-pressed to deduce similarly positive yields from almost any other industry on the planet during that time, tobacco included. And yet, a recent column in these pages ( Greg Walcher, “Finding logic in the irrational,” Aug. 20) sought to equate the energy industry’s purported tactics in reducing emissions with those of the tobacco industry in reducing smoking. Clever as it may appear, the argument falls short on the facts.

Nobody seriously disputes the realities of and challenges posed by climate change. American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Mike Sommers has named it “the most important issue of our time.” This challenge begs for solutions, but it requires far more than top-down government directives, as market-driven policies and private sector innovation can and must help drive America’s global leadership in successfully confronting this crucial issue.

To that end, the American Petroleum Institute this spring unveiled our Climate Action Framework, a groundbreaking roadmap for the natural gas and oil industry to take the front foot in meeting the world’s growing need for energy while simultaneously ushering in a lower carbon future. The framework, a years-in-the-making collaboration between our member companies and leading policy and scientific minds, lays out specific actions our industry can and must take to rise to this critical moment. As importantly, the plan is rooted in reality: As the global population will near 10 billion by 2050, energy demand will follow suit. In fact, under the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, natural gas and oil will furnish nearly half the world’s energy in 2040, even if every nation meets the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

This means that it remains incumbent on our industry to take the reins in reducing carbon, in Colorado and across America. We welcome the charge, particularly in the Centennial State, where Gov. Jared Polis’ administration has laid out an ambitious plan to cut the state’s emissions: 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, from 2005 levels. To reach those targets, every sector of the economy will need to do its part, and API’s Climate Action Framework only serves to further the natural gas and oil industry’s impetus to lead.

Executing on actionable carbon-reducing policies is eminently “doable,” and so we must. We live in a state that remains among the nation’s leaders in enacting substantive climate policy, and while doing so has come at great financial cost and significant regulatory burden to Colorado’s natural gas and oil operators, we are clear-eyed and well-positioned to continue leading the charge in the years ahead. We hope that our president, our governor, and the readers of this publication recognize not just that we want to be a partner in this undertaking, but that for everyone to succeed, we must be.

Colorado has assumed national leadership in balancing safe, responsible development with strong environmental stewardship, and API’s Climate Action Framework only furthers our shared mission. Indeed, we are the problem solvers, the generation that will get this done so that future generations can continue to thrive, in Colorado and across the world. Because we can, we must, and we will.

Carrie Hackenberger is associate director of API Colorado, a division of the American Petroleum Institute.