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Big Business and Climate Change

The British newspaper The Independent published an article on their web site Sunday purporting to investigate ties between denier groups and Exxon Mobil. In actuality the article merely rehashed assertions made by environmental groups of such links.

There is no doubt that such things do occur, and from the point of view of Exxon Mobil, why not? This is big boy world where corporations and individuals pursue their self-interest without apology. It is also a world where opportunists and true believers aren’t too fussy about where they get their money from. Not exactly news.

At the same time, big corporations are used to hedging their bets. They routinely donate to Democrats and Republicans alike, just maybe not in equal amounts. They do so because they understand that in a complicated world anything can happen and you need to be ready to do business in any business or political environment.

Think about that as you read this statement from Kenneth P. Cohen, Exxon Mobil’s Vice President for Public Affairs:
"There is increasing evidence that the earth’s climate has warmed on average about 0.6 degrees centigrade in the last century. . . . [t]he risks to society and ecosystems could prove to be significant, so despite the areas of uncertainty that do exist, it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the risks."

So the real "trick" is to align Exxon Mobil’s "strategies that address the risks" with what those of us who believe in climate change perceive as being effective strategies to deal with this looming crisis.

How do we do that? First and foremost, we need to reestablish in the public’s mind the soundness of our belief in climate change. Second, we need to create a market for products that are renewable and sustainable. Third, we need to push politicians to put the long-term interests of the people ahead of the short-term imperative of the next election. Fourth, we need to be very patient.

None of this is easy, but don’t ever assume that businesses or politicians won’t listen. They are eager to do business, be it for economic or political gain, but they won’t change unless you put a figurative gun to their heads. We the people just need to keep hammering at them, telling them loud and clear what it is we want.

Sooner or later they will listen. They always do when their own survival is at stake.

This essay first appeared in

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