Companies desert the climate deniosphere

Companies are leaving trade associations that deny human-induced global warming.

More and more companies, such as Pacific Gas & Electric, are stepping away from membership in trade organizations that deny climate change.

Increasingly, companies are leaving trade associations that have taken positions at odds with what science is telling us about human-induced global warming — that it's real and that we'd better address it sooner rather than later.

Last week, Pacific Gas & Electric (possibly best known nationally as the villain in the movie Erin Brockovich") left the US Chamber of Commerce over "fundamental differences" on how to approach climate change caused by a build-up of greenhouse gases in earth's atmosphere.

Then New Mexico-based PNM Resources announced it would let its membership in the Chamber expire over similar concerns. And in a statement, Nike expressed its discontent with the Chamber's obfuscating approach to climate change.

In a letter [PDF], PG&E chairman and CEO Peter Darbee said:

We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.

An excerpt of PNM's statement in the Albuquerque Journal:

We strongly disagree with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's position on climate change legislation and particularly reject its recent theatrics calling for a 'Scopes Monkey Trial' to put the science of climate change on trial. We believe the science is compelling enough to act sooner rather than later, and we support comprehensive federal legislation to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect customers against unreasonable cost increases.

A Nike statement said:

Nike fundamentally disagrees with the US Chamber of Commerce's position on climate change and is concerned and deeply disappointed with the US Chamber's recently filed petition challenging the EPA's administrative authority and action on this critically important issue.
Nike believes that climate change is an urgent issue affecting the world today and that businesses and their representative associations need to take an active role to invest in sustainable business practices and innovative solutions to address the issue. It is not a time for debate but instead a time for action and we believe the Chamber's recent petition sets back important work currently being undertaken by EPA on this issue.

Today, Exelon, an electric utility company, announced that it would not renew its Chamber of Commerce membership when it expires because of the Chamber's opposition to climate legislation. In a speech at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy's national conference today, Exelon CEO John Rowe said:

The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible.... Putting a price on carbon is essential, because it will force us to do the cheapest things, like energy efficiency, first.”

In a letter earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson also expressed displeasure about the Chamber's tack, hinting that official Chamber views on climate issues were far more extreme than those held by its actual members. In an April letter [PDF], the pharmaceutical company said:

We recognize that Chamber members have varying perspectives on climate change legislation. We would appreciate if statements made by the chamber would reflect the full range of views, especially those of chamber members advocating for congressional action.

A new Scopes monkey trial on climate aside, here's how the Chamber sums up its thinking on climate:

The long and the short of it is, preserving and protecting our economy and our environment for future generations is one of the top priorities of the U.S. Chamber. American business is the single largest investor and innovator in clean energy solutions and remains committed to propelling this nation to a prosperous and lower carbon future. We support sound policies that incentivize innovation and new business opportunities rather than the approach coming out of the House and the EPA which will strangle business with thousands of new regulation and stifle America's competitiveness.

The Chamber isn't the only industry association seeing desertions over the twin "regulation will kill business" and "climate change is a hoax" stances on climate issues.

Earlier this month, Alstom Power, a French manufacturer of power plant parts, left the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Last month, Duke Energy also left ACCCE, as did Alcoa, an aluminum company.

In August, Bonner & Associates, a lobbying firm hired by ACCCE, was caught sending forged letters to members of the House. But the companies say that didn't play into their decision to leave ACCCE.

In early September, Duke spokesman Tom Williams explained the company's decision to the National Journal: "As the debate evolved, it became clear that there were some influential members who would never support climate legislation no matter what."

Both Alstom and Duke supported the Waxman-Markey bill passed in the US House last June.

The exodus prompted one a blogger at Climate Progress to quip: "Will last company to leave the Chamber's boardroom please turn off the lights!"

Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many environment topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.

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