Businesses and everyday Americans do not back Trump’s climate reversals.
Imagine, if you will, a quintessentially American scene. Nike and Gap-clad children are eating McDonald’s Happy Meals. Dad pulls into the driveway in his Chevy Impala — or maybe his Tesla. Mom sips a Coca-Cola and scrolls through Facebook on her AT&T-driven iPhone. On nearly everything is the hue of Dupont-made plastic.
Mom and dad might not know it, but every single company named above signed on to an Obama-era White House pledge to address climate change. And if they do know it, they are most likely in favor of their hard-earned dollars going towards efforts to maintain a liveable climate.
The household brands —and 144 other major U.S. businesses — didn’t sign as a pledge of fealty to the Democratic Party. They signed on because, well, climate change is real, and there are real people at the heads of these companies who are desperately worried about their children’s future and their companies’ bottom lines.
Now, those same companies are speaking out against President Trump’s new executive order that favors fossil fuels and undercuts emissions reduction plans.
“We believe that investing in a low-carbon economy will not only help foster a healthier environment, it is also a key to unlocking new business growth potential for the U.S. and around the world,” Gap Inc. spokesperson Laura Wilkinson told the Guardian.
Lots and lots — the majority, even — of people in America are worried about climate change. In other words, there is a credibility issue here. Gap will do better if it can cast itself as a green company.
If nothing else, Americans vote with their dollars — and environmentalism is popular. Kia’s 2017 Super Bowl ad with Melissa McCarthy may have made fun of “eco-warriors,” but the ultimate message was that you, too, can save the planet if you drive this car.
As President Donald Trump’s approval ratings tank, the popularity of environmental action is creating a conundrum for his administration.
Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and has stacked his cabinet with outright climate deniers and men indebted to the fossil fuel industry. This week, his long-promised repeal of the Clean Power Plan — an EPA rule intended to reduce emissions from the U.S. electricity sector — came to fruition as part of an energy and environment executive order that props up coal companies, reduces the government’s preparation for sea level rise and extreme weather, and undercuts emissions reduction programs.
“In 2015, when the Clean Power Plan was announced, over 365 companies and investors showed their support stating that it incentivized renewable energy and enabled business to reconcile their duty to shareholders with care for community and planet,” Nigel Topping, CEO of the We Mean Business coalition, said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress.
“These companies are part of a growing movement in the private sector that sees profits, job creation, competitiveness, innovation, and stewardship of the environment as a virtuous circle,” Topping said.
Shareholders? Profits? Job creation? Contrast that with Trump’s words as the signing of the executive order:
“That is what this is all about again: bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams, and making America wealthy again,” Trump said.
But he’s forgetting — or refusing to acknowledge — that businesses also face their own climate-driven challenges. Even oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Shell are taking steps to reduce the risks of climate change.
Climate change will hit some businesses harder than others. A number of food and agricultural companies — including Monsanto, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, and Nestle — joined the Business Act on Climate pledge, often citing the risk to their own business models as reasons to address climate change.
Candy companies Mars and Hershey both joined — and it’s probably not a coincidence that researchers have been warning for years that chocolate-producing regions are at risk from a changing climate. A 2013 agricultural study found “vast areas of the world’s two top cocoa growers Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire will become less suitable for cocoa production as global temperatures climb by up to 2°C,” according to an industry news site.
Broadly speaking, climate change — and the concurrent sea level rise, intensified storms, drought, and unrest — has a considerable economic impact.
Studies have found that, by the end of the century, the cost of climate change will range from $180 billion for the United States alone to $400 trillion globally. Meanwhile, independent studies have shown that the Clean Power Plan — the signature carbon rule of the Obama administration and enemy number one for EPA head Scott Pruitt — will provide a $38 billion economic benefit for the country.
That puts major companies on the same footing as mom and dad, who are just trying to find a steady source of income. Labor groups and big business are finding themselves on the same side of the climate issue.
“Climate change is already harming American workers,” says a report from the Labor Network for Sustainability, which notes the impacts of extreme weather, flooding, and changing patterns in tourism. “State and local government funds are being diverted to cleanup, repair, and adaptation and taxes are being increased to pay for them,” the report says.
Again, to quote Trump on Tuesday: “jobs, jobs, jobs.”