Sunday, June 26, 2016

Why Isn't Anyone Lobbying For Climate Change?

Why Isn't Anyone Lobbying For Climate Change?
Forbes, 7 June 2016, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

This is an interesting piece by a sitting Senator, speaking frankly about how lobbying works inside the halls of Congress.  The question he asks is simple: why don’t companies lobby for action on climate change?  Even companies with a stated progressive attitude on climate change, such as Apple, Google, and Coca-Cola, don’t lobby on the issue at all; likewise with companies that directly lose money due to climate change, such as the logging industry (which has lost huge swathes of timber stands to beetle damage and forest fires) and the insurance industry (which pays out big bucks with every hurricane and flood).  So, why?  Sen. Whitehouse gives two reasons.  First, lobbying organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Businesses have “all been coopted by fossil fuel interests” and fail to represent the companies that pay them, when it comes to lobbying on climate change.  Indeed, Whitehouse calls the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is particularly egregious here, the “U.S. Chamber of Carbon”.  Second, corporations are afraid of retribution; the Republican Party is, he says, so “intertwined” with fossil fuels that companies fear their wrath were they to act politically on climate change.  Whitehouse ends on an upbeat note, citing the recent gathering of many American companies in support of a strong climate deal in the Paris Accords (as covered by another article I recently summarized); he says this group may be “too big to punish” and may thus herald a sea change.

My take: My impression is that Senator Whitehouse is being reasonably honest and direct here.  I don’t agree with the way that he singles out the Republicans as being the crux of the problem; we have seen precious little real effort from the Democrats on climate change, too, although they are more willing to at least talk a good game.  But overall I think what he says is true; lobbying organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce have been captured by the fossil fuel industry, and corporations feel insufficient political cover (from both parties, I would say) to make much noise about climate change.  I would also note that political cover comes, ultimately, from the people; if corporations that speak out about climate change are praised and rewarded, instead of boycotted and slimed, we will see them become much more forthright.  What I find sad is that Sen. Whitehouse, like almost all politicians, seems to recognize no personal complicity whatsoever in all this, even as he describes how he spent a whole week in meetings with lobbying groups that he himself knows have been “coopted by fossil fuel interests”.  He says “the good guys in the corporate sector have to start showing up”.  Hmm.  Maybe the good guys in the political sector need to start showing up, too.

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