Guest Editorial: The climate consensus grows

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This editorial is from the Washington Post:

The Republican Party’s global warming denial is becoming the fringe view it always deserved to be. It is not just environmentalists who want to move on climate change. Big corporations — even oil companies — are increasingly calling for action, too.

Declaring that “climate change is a major threat to the U.S. economy,” a group of chief executives on Wednesday teamed up with several prominent environmental groups to call on President Donald Trump and Congress to “put in place a long-term federal policy as soon as possible to protect against the worst impacts.” The group, called the CEO Climate Dialogue, endorsed cutting the country’s planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050. That goal is too modest; the United Nations warns that world governments must get to net-zero emissions by mid-century. But just reaching the 80 percent goal would require a huge transformation in the U.S. economy — and also on the part of some of the big companies calling for it. These include BP, Royal Dutch Shell, DuPont, Dominion Energy and Ford.

The environmentalist groups that joined these firms, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Nature Conservancy, risk criticism for associating with big energy companies calling for an emissions goal that falls short of the U.N. target — not to mention the extreme demands of the Green New Deal advocates. But those who really care about the problem should not turn away would-be allies, if their desire to move in the right direction is sincere.

The CEO Climate Dialogue is not the first corporate group to demand tougher government climate policy, nor is its proposal the most detailed out there. But the fact that the group’s rollout seems almost worth taking for granted is itself notable. “The fact that there are several business coalitions working to advance federal climate legislation demonstrates that demand for U.S. climate action is growing, and that a wide range of companies are keen to drive progress in Congress,” the group argues.

This trend is explainable in part because the science — and therefore the need to act — is increasingly undeniable. But it is also in the long-term interest of major corporations to plan for the inevitable transition to come. Addressing global warming can be an orderly, careful process, or it can be an expensive emergency effort thrown together once the consequences start getting really dire — when time will be short and options few. “Business needs and supports predictable and effective climate policies including an economy-wide price on carbon,” the group said. That is the right policy. These companies can prove their sincerity by throwing their lobbying power behind it — not just issuing statements.

As the evidence piles up and more voices admit the need to act, it becomes all the more astonishing that Trump ignores climate change and celebrates his administration’s drive to tear up environmental rules. He ought to listen to the corporate executives who are demanding a very different policy.

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