Business Runs from Denial – to Acknowledging Climate Change

September 30, 2014

Climate science’s “I have a dream” moment?

The recent rush of big Brand name tech firms  to distance themselves from climate denial is evidence that last week’s huge climate march in New York was both a catalyzing event, and an indicator of a broader shift in public consciousness.  Climate Denial is on the way to transitioning from  an acceptable “alternative” position, to a poisonous, untouchable social disease like racism, apartheid, spousal abuse, or  kiddie pornography, and its practitioners will be remembered in those terms.

Jeff Nesbit in US News & World Report:

For years, tech giants like Facebook, Google and Yahoo with deep roots in both libertarianism and the laissez faire tech culture of Silicon Valley had managed to find common cause with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC takes a conservative, national political approach down to the state level through model bills that do the bidding of big, corporate interests which provide the funding. ALEC bills are generally promoted word for word at the state level by GOP legislators on issues ranging from information technology to renewable energy.

Despite criticism from consumer advocacy groups like Forecast the Facts that ALEC was distorting science in some of its model bills – specifically its efforts to distort climate science in model bills designed to thwart renewable energy innovation at the state level, or block state implementation of the White House’s clean power plan – the tech industry giants that rely on science and innovation stuck with ALEC.

No more.

Climate Denial’s “Bull Connor” moment?

In just one week, Google, Facebook and Yahoo all separately decided to drop their affiliation with ALEC – mostly because, as Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio, ALEC was twisting science in the pursuit of its political goals at the state level.

More importantly, last week’s climate march and UN meeting on climate issues became an important showcase for corporations to weigh and and acknowledge what the science has been telling us for decades.  Denial is no longer a respectable option. This is creating running room for politicians who want to find their own way out of the climate denial or climate agnostic ghetto.

Inside Climate News:

Governments and companies have long linked the use of coal, oil and natural gas with economic growth and prosperity, and many world leaders therefore view the push for emissions cuts as a call for deprivation.

Metzger of the World Resources Institute said that’s what made last week’s blitz from business so important.

“There were a lot of heads of state leading up to this [summit] that were very curious about what companies were going to say because they needed talking points for their speeches…so they could say, look, this isn’t going to kill jobs, this is something that a lot of companies are behind, and this is, in a lot of cases, good for the economy,” Metzger said.

He paraphrased comments from Ikea CEO Peter Agnefjall, who urged an audience of government leaders to act boldly on climate change, reassuring them, “You take that ambitious step, and we’ll be there to support you. We’ll be there behind you.”

That kind of message, Metzger said, “helps a lot for those heads of state who feel like they’re putting their neck out there with industry if they’re going to regulate carbon or put a price on carbon.”

It didn’t hurt to feature an appearance by Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who holds rock star status among electronics consumers and happens to run the world’s most valuable company. Many noted that his presence was particularly significant because Apple was almost simultaneously launching sales of its new iPhone.

“You always make time for the [things] that are truly important, and this is truly important for our company, for our planet, our employees, our customers—everyone,” Cook said. On the issue of climate change, he added, “the time for inaction has passed.”

Apple owns a massive solar farm and 94 percent of the energy used in its data centers and corporate operations comes from renewable sources. What the company gets in return is secure power at a stable and predictable price. Cook said the company is now working on improving the operations of its manufacturers and suppliers.

The important thing is “not accepting that there’s a trade-off between the economy and the environment…what we’ve found is that both are doable,” he said. “If you innovate and you set the bar high, you will find a way to do both—and you must do both because the long-term consequences of not addressing climate are huge.”

 

Fox News:

Speaking at New York’s Morgan Library, Cook described tackling global warming as a “core value” of his company, according to media reports.

The CEO, who earned a reputation as a logistics guru during his time as Apple’s COO, said that the company has addressed its environmental footprint throughout its supply chain, according to Mashable, and cited the environmental checklists that accompany its product launches.

Cook, who described Apple as the largest private owner of a solar farm in America, possibly the world, said that companies’ actions around climate change and their environmental footprint, will “drive environmental behavior.”

The Hill:

International oil and natural gas company Occidental Petroleum is severing its ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the latest in an exodus from the conservative group.

In a letter to an investment management company, Walden Asset Management, Occidental said it would no longer be a member of ALEC or support the group.

“There are no plans to continue Occidental’s membership in, or make further payments to ALEC,” Occidental said in a letter sent to the management firm on Friday.

Occidental is the latest in a string of companies to drop support of ALEC, the majority of which were technology giants.

Last week, Google said it cut ties because of ALEC’s climate change skepticism, saying the group was “literally lying” about global warming.

While Occidental doesn’t cite a specific example for its departure from ALEC, it notes that being tied to the group meant the company would be “presumed to share the positions” taken by ALEC on climate change and regulations put forward by the administration.

In the letter, which was provided to The Hill, Occidental’s associate general counsel Linda Peterson also said, “we do not support all of the positions taken by organization to which we belong.”

Meanwhile, reacting to the flight of funders, ALEC has resorted to the “my best friends are black ” defense.

The Hill again:

In a response to earlier departures, ALEC said Google was acting on “misinformation” and that it does not deny the science behind climate change.

ALEC said it supports legislation aimed at addressing the “scientific and economic aspects of the issue of climate change.”

Thoughtful readers will note that, of course, racism, child pornography, and other social ills are still with us – and no doubt science denial is a long way from dead – but the palpable shift we’ve seen is an indication that a more productive era of climate action, and even climate legislation, may be coming in the US.

 

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6 Responses to “Business Runs from Denial – to Acknowledging Climate Change”

  1. Mike Roddy Says:

    Good one, Peter, let’s hope so. Most of the deniers in the House will be reelected, so action may have to come from the Executive Branch. How or whether that happens is the big question.


  2. […] The recent rush of big Brand name tech firms to distance themselves from climate denial is evidence that last week's huge climate march in New York was both a catalyzing event, and an indicator of…  […]


  3. This is HUGE.

    #NoPlanetB

  4. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    In return for funding, the Kochtopus coerced the GOP to dig a hole of denial so deep that they could not back out, and it is about to bury them.

    2014 is the year of the turning point.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “2014 is the year of the turning point” Let’s hope so.

      Can’t wait to see what happens on Election Day. We’re not hearing much about climate change as an issue here in the VA campaigns, but the dirty money is being used to run lots of dirty Repugnant ads, and that was a turn-off in the 2013 race here and caused the GOP to lose—-let’s hope it happens again.


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