In the lead up to the GOP New Hampshire primary, one thing has become abundantly clear: climate change has few friends in this field of candidates.
So visibly absent is the subject of climate change from ongoing stump speeches that New Hampshire scientists –representing institutions such as the University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth–have banded together in a plea for republican candidates to, at the very least, accept the reality of shifting global temperatures.
In reviewing the front-running republican websites, not one even mentions climate change, let alone sets out a plan to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) we emit as a nation (U.S. being the second largest emitter of GHGs worldwide).
This signals a prime opportunity for leading-edge U.S. corporations to ordain themselves as the voice of reason. While iconic symbols of American industry (IBM, Bank of America, Nike, and Levi’s for starters) are taking progressive action on climate change, candidates who purport themselves as 21st century businessmen refuse to even acknowledge the science of humanity’s biggest challenge. This leaves one to wonder just how much of a lagging indicator politicians truly are to the status quo.
Major corporations are no longer just playing to the green crowd because of its popularity. Climate change is being addressed at the highest levels of business because it poses an immediate risk to operations, supply chains and future investments. A look at the 2011 Carbon Disclosure Project Global 500 report reveals that 85% of respondents to last year’s survey reported business risks associated with climate change.
So why isn’t there more coordinated vocalization from the private sector demanding that presidential candidates address the issue?
To be sure, groups such as Ceres’ Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) are valiantly attempting to move the needle on Capitol Hill, but perhaps it is time to bring corporate activism to the level of campaign contributions. Since the U.S. Supreme Court removed the ceiling in 2010 on the amount corporations are legally allowed to spend on campaign donations, the next logical step, it would seem, is for businesses affected by climate change risk to invest in presidential candidates who reflect those interests.
It is well understood that this country is in need of an economic kick-start, and that any plans for job creation will appeal equally to the left, the right and the coveted independent swing vote in this year’s election. What has become less clear, however, is why the quest for clean energy and a low-carbon future has become such a source of vitriol for the conservative agenda.
Climate change is no longer an issue of activism or alarmism. It is a simple fact that deserves the attention of anyone vying for the position of Commander in Chief.
Mike Bellamente is the project director of Climate Counts, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit that annually ranks major corporations on their climate leadership.