Environmental activists, including one wearing a polar bear costume, protest the Obama administration's plans to allow new fossil fuel drilling on public lands and oceans, during a demonstration held by the 'Keep it in the Ground' coalition in front of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2015. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Passionate voices in environmental, political and even academic spheres have recommended elimination of 85% of global energy by keeping oil, natural gas and coal in the ground, thus cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions. This, they argue, is for the welfare of the global climate and of the impoverished who, they claim, will be hurt most by the impacts of climate change.

These activists suggest that fossil fuels can be replaced relatively easily with intermittent, low-density sources of energy such as wind and solar, as well as with massive production of chemical batteries in hundreds of new “gigafactories.” They have persuaded politicians to introduce “keep it in the ground” legislation, influenced regulators to subsidize renewable energy where renewable resources are poor, and helped to polarize the public.

The “keep it in the ground” mantra is misleading at best. At worst, the economic intervention that requires proliferation of “green” energy can actually hurt human development and endanger the environment. Access to secure energy — affordable, available, reliable and sustainable — is what underpins healthy economies, lifts underdeveloped nations from poverty and allows for investment in environmental sustainability. Lack of access to secure energy does the opposite, often forcing human migration from stagnant, impoverished nations.