Investors Say Climate Change is Huge Threat to Economy, Pensions

Takver/CC BY-SA 2.0

It's been said so many times here at TreeHugger it's become somewhat of a cliche, but you can't separate the economy from the ecological systems that support it. That's why, despite all the "economy versus environment" nonsense pushed by some partisan circles, a large segment of the business community is pushing for serious, concerted environmental action. And it's not just a case of hippy banks calling for more happiness, less greed either.

Business Leaders Speak Up
From the Confederation of British Industry declaring that environmental regulation doesn't have to be a burden to the world's largest investors urging action on climate change, these voices are growing stronger and more urgent as the devastating economic impacts of our current course become increasingly apparent.

Now Reuters reports that a large coalition of investors is again ringing the climate alarm bell, sending an open letter to government leaders around the world warning of serious disruption to our economies, our pensions and our way of life if we don't act decisively to curb this threat:

In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally. [...] The investments and retirement savings of millions of people were being jeopardized because governments were delaying tougher emissions cuts or more generous support for greener energy.

A Systemic Problem Needs a Systemic Fix
Of course it is a fair bet that a large number of these investors have stocks in tar sands, coal or other climate disrupting industry sectors, so there will be plenty of voices calling "hipocrisy". But just as me owning a car or using electricity doesn't preclude me from voicing concern over climate change, we should take these warnings in good faith. Many investors want to act to avert climate change, but they recognize that they exist in a corporate culture that prioritizes short term profits over long term sustainability. And they operate in an economic system that offers perverse incentives to pollute, and fails to adequately level the playing field for cleaner tech. Neither of these is simple to transform by action on the individual, company or even industry sector level alone. And hence the call for more leadership from government.

It will be interesting to note how the climate denial lobby responds to such voices. There was a time when they uniformly painted environmentalists as anti-capitalist luddites. Since corporate voices have started to step up to the plate, those who advocate business-as-usual have flip flopped between the same old "anti-business" caricatures of us greenies and an inference that climate change is all a hoax to make money for vested interests and Al Gore's corporate buddies.

Busting the "Anti-Business" Myth
We might be corporate shills for the money machine, or we might be anti-capitalist crazies hell bent on bringing down the American way of life. But they can't have it both ways. And then there's the third possibility—that we are simply citizens of an increasingly destabilized planetary system who would quite like to see our children survive, and maybe even thrive.

Tags: Activism | Corporate Responsibility | Ecological Economics | Economics | Global Climate Change

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