Trump Appointee Warned of Climate Impacts

January 10, 2017

The dangers of appointing sentient beings.


During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump dismissed the risk man-made climate change poses to society, saying in March, “we have much bigger risks” facing the country.

But the president-elect’s choice to head the US Securities and Exchange Commission, attorney Jay Clayton, has done just the opposite, advising companies to come clean to investors about the risk that severe weather and other consequences of climate change will have on their bottom lines.

Last week, Trump announced he will nominate Clayton to chair the federal agency tasked with enforcing the nation’s securities laws.

“Jay Clayton is a highly talented expert on many aspects of financial and regulatory law, and he will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time,” Trump said in a statement. “We need to undo many regulations which have stifled investment in American businesses, and restore oversight of the financial industry in a way that does not harm American workers.”

For at least the past six years, Clayton’s law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, has advised businesses to disclose the “impacts of climate change” in documents they file with the SEC, according to a 2010 memo. The law firm listed Clayton as one of handful of attorneys that clients can turn to for advice on climate disclosure.

Back in 2010, the prospect that the United States would enact laws to curb the release of heat-trapping gases was real. At the time, Congress was debating legislation to do just that, and the SEC warned companies that any new regulation could affect their business.

As a result, the law firm listed for companies a litany of ways climate change — and action the world takes to address it — can affect them. They included “the devastating results of severe weather conditions,” “international treaties,” “federal and state legislation” and “increased demand for goods that results in lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

Whether the SEC under Clayton, if confirmed by the Senate, will continue to take climate change seriously is unclear. Trump has yet to say anything about the SEC’s climate disclosure guidance, and the president-elect’s transition team declined to comment to BuzzFeed News.

“That’s the big question mark,” Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute, the nonprofit watchdog that found the memo and other documents, told BuzzFeed News. “There are certainly a lot of other lawyers and law firms that the Trump transition team could have turned to” if it wanted to roll back the SEC’s guidance, he said.


4 Responses to “Trump Appointee Warned of Climate Impacts”

  1. […] Source: Trump Appointee Warned of Climate Impacts | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  2. webej Says:

    Perhaps this shows the only approach to the people surrounding Trump: they think that the environment is a bunch of hobbyists imposing costs on the rest of us, the way people thought of the Sierra club when Trump was in high school. They think of themselves as the bastions of reality, which means being serious about money. As soon as [not until] anything to do with climate hits their bottom line, it suddenly gets through to them.
    The vision of 8 billion people who have nothing to support life anymore other than a trillion dollars each does not seem worrying to them — it is simply inconceivable that a piece of paper with a number on it will not be able to buy mankind the wherewithal you need to buy off life itself.
    The fact seldom dawns on people that businessmen are perhaps the class of people furthest from reality, most caught up in seemingly objective parameters that they themselves have generated, the most pampered but also the most ritualized caste in modern society, always thinking about the most abstract and reductionist social “thing” there is: money. This extreme abstract arm’s length relation to reality means nothing will puncture their bubble until it shows up in present costs. The whole purpose of ritual is to sink more deeply into the NOW, but for geological processes this is a catastrophic approach.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Yes, well said, webej.

      Though I think I get what you’re saying about time scales, I do have to disagree with the last statement. Ritual that sinks people more into the present makes them available to just the kind of feedback from reality that the business world cuts itself off from. Although nature itself (including their own nature) may not drop them into that realization directly, it’s almost unavoidable that they’re also opened to science, at various levels of abstractness, and that tells us what’s happening to the biosphere in many different realms including climate.

      The trick of course is to find things–ritual or not–that provide feedback businesspeople are willing and able to receive, and that the mechanisms of their constructed world don’t block. Revolution, for example–that can work. And if it’s peaceful, emphasizing self-suffering of the revolutionaries, it can be enough of a ritual to reach deeply rather than cause defensiveness and withdrawal from feedback.

  3. indy222 Says:

    Well said. Yes – they too are busy congratulating themselves on being “masters of the universe” to think that a bunch of bleeding hearts and tree-huggers could have any worth whatsoever.

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