Get Invoved with WCTM:

Pragmatists vs. Ideologues

What do General Electric, Walmart, and ExxonMobil all have in common, besides being three of the world’s largest corporations?

They are all expecting governments to start charging more for carbon emissions in serious efforts to combat climate change.  According to a new report by the environmental data company CDP, over two dozen of this country’s largest corporations, including the five big oil companies, are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans.  The executives of these businesses have analyzed the compelling scientific data on climate change (as has been discussed on this blog many times), read the political tea leaves, and determined that much higher prices on carbon emissions are inevitable.  Some even see an opportunity, if managed correctly, to turn a carbon tax into a profit opportunity.  As Tom Carnac, North American president of CDP, told the Times about adding a price on carbon into long-term plans, “It’s climate change as line item.  They’re looking at it from a rational perspective, making a profit.  It drives internal decision-making.”

Not all businesses share that perspective.  Most visibly, Koch Industries, own by the multi-billionaire and fervent Tea Party supporting brothers Charles and David Koch, has aggressively mounted campaigns against policies that would combat climate change, especially taxes on carbon pollution.  This summer the company made a splash by hiring a notable former Hill staffer turned lobbyist to garner support for a House resolution declaring a carbon tax “detrimental to American families and businesses.”   Under the captainship of the brothers, convenient anti-science beliefs dominate at Koch; instead of accepting physical realities, Koch Industries’ words and business actions reject the mountainous evidence climate scientists have generated on the damages  human activities are doing to the natural world we all depend on.  Koch Industries is privately held, leaving the brothers  free to run their organization as their politics dictates.

The emerging business consensus that dangerous, human-caused climate change is happening, and that significant carbon taxes are inevitable, reflects a larger schism inside the Grand Old (Republican) Party.  Increasingly the business-friendly GOP establishment is clashing with the ideologically-motivated Tea Party faction.   The government shutdown in October 2013 led by Tea Party adherents highlighted this divide and upset  business leaders enough so that  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has started to fund moderate Republican candidates in several states (Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky) against Tea Party primary opponents.  In sum, the Republican Party is experiencing an identity crisis between a business-friendly, more pragmatic establishment and a fervent, ideologically-driven wing carrying the banner of  “Tea Party.”  Clear, obvious signs of man-caused climate change will continue to serve as a litmus test for businesses and for the GOP.  Will corporations and the Republican party be dominated by relatively sensible pragmatists, or by leaders wed to rigid, convenient, anti-science ideologies?  Will the P in G.O.P. stand for Pragmatists or something else?


About the author:

Zachary Dearing is an occasional contributor to We Consume Too Much.  Zac has been passionate about energy and the implications of disruptive technologies on societies, governments, and economies for the past half decade.  While at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Zac studied Economics, Political Science, and Energy Studies.  He brings his trifecta of interests in energy, politics, and economics to bare in his posts and contributions.


No comments yet.

Add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to Newsletter