One of the worst-kept secrets when it comes to climate change is that the opposition to efforts to curtail greenhouse gases is irrational, divorced both from science and real-world economics. Disbelief in climate change has become a form of tribal self-identification for the right, an article of faith not subject to factual proof.
Know-nothing pundits and politicians who crave their praise argue that climate change isn’t real and that our commitments to reducing greenhouse gases hurt our economy. The only ones to differ with that are scientists, business leaders and investors — in other words, the people who have reputations and money at stake.
Last November, hundreds of U.S. companies wrote to President Trump. Forbes reported: “More than 300 U.S. companies, including 72 with annual revenues exceeding $100 million, have sent an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him not to abandon the Paris climate agreement.” This is not just the sentiment of liberals from Silicon Valley, as climate-change deniers would have you believe. (“High-profile organizations signing the letter include Dannon, DuPont, eBay, Gap, General Mills, Hewlett-Packard, Hilton, Intel, Kellogg, Levi Strauss, Mars, Monsanto, Nike, Patagonia, Staples, Starbucks, The Hartford, Tiffany and Vail Resorts — plus many others.”) They have made investments, planned transactions, cultivated public goodwill and done the math. Abandoning climate-change mitigation would be detrimental to their bottom line.
That conclusion hasn’t changed since November. BuzzFeed reports:
As President Trump rolls back Obama’s environmental legacy, it isn’t just green groups who say they’ll resist America’s reversal on clean electricity. Billion-dollar corporations told BuzzFeed News that because climate change is a significant concern for their business, they’ll keep on battling carbon pollution regardless of what the government says.
Those businesses include companies in the food, retail, high-tech and even energy sectors. (“Because of the competitive price of natural gas and the declining price of renewables, continuing to drive carbon out makes sense for us,” Duke Power explained to the Wall Street Journal.) Bloomberg Politics reported that “companies say their promises, coordinated by the Obama administration, reflect their push to cut energy costs, head off activist pressure and address a risk to their bottom line in the decades to come.”
The biggest investors in public companies (pension plans, cities and other institutions) agree. Reuters reported:
Investors with more than $15 trillion of assets under management urged governments led by the United States to implement the Paris climate accord to fight climate change despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to pull out.
“As long-term institutional investors, we believe that the mitigation of climate change is essential for the safeguarding of our investments,” according to the letter signed by 214 institutional investors and published on Monday.
Climate-change denial may be common in the halls of the Capitol, but for CEOs whose livelihood depends on technological sophistication and careful strategic planning, it is a different story. General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt wrote to his employees in late March, bluntly stating, “We believe climate change is real and the science is well accepted.” He continued: “We believe climate change should be addressed on a global basis through multi-national agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.” In other words, even if Trump casts aside U.S. international leadership, the most critical players in the U.S. economy aren’t going to slam on the brakes and go back to embracing carbon-based energy sources.
You can choose to believe that all these companies, all their employees and the investors who plunk down trillions of dollars are all wrong. But politicians and political hacks should stop pretending that their animus toward climate-change amelioration is driven by economic concerns, by a desire to bolster American technology, growth and affluence. It’s not. The people most concerned about the economy favor remaining in the Paris accord. If Trump decides to go down the climate-change denial road (letting China seize the high ground and earning the scorn of our allies), it won’t be an act of economic nationalism; it will be the act of a know-nothing ideologue who irrationally ignores what science and economics tell him, hoping to curry favor with low-information voters who get their “science” from Fox News.