Refusing to act on climate change will be bad for business, according to a major recent report assessing the alarming risks of unchecked global warming on the U.S. economy. But while some top business media outlets recognize global warming as a serious issue for their audience, others are still stuck in denial.
On June 23, the Risky Business Project released a comprehensive analysis of the economic impacts of climate change in the United States. The study found that the current path of "business as usual" -- emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for driving catastrophic climate change without restrictions -- will reduce labor productivity of outdoor workers by up to three percent, reduce agricultural yields by up to 70 percent in some regions, and cost up to $507 billion in property damages from sea level rise by 2100. The co-chairs are calling for business to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent an economic crash on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis or worse.
However, some top U.S. business media outlets are denying that climate change is a problem worth addressing -- a disservice to their business viewers, who have a lot to lose. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly cases of business media covering Risky Business:
The Good: Bloomberg TV Notes Climate Research Is "Overwhelmingly Conclusive"
In covering the study's findings, Bloomberg Television, a cable and satellite business news channel, featured an interview with former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, one of the report's co-chairs and a Republican. Bloomberg's Erik Schatzer began the interview by stating that "the research [on man-made climate change] is overwhelmingly conclusive," and went on to have a rational discussion about solutions to global warming that businesses can take today. Schatzer noted that Bloomberg Television is a child company of the media organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, another co-chair of Risky Business. Paulson suggested that businesses fully disclose their climate change risks, that they invest in "resilience," and that the nation "take out a national insurance policy" to respond to the impacts of climate change, adding that businesses must advocate for government policies that would allow the nation to "avoid the most adverse outcomes."
Paulson elaborated on "the cost of inaction" alongside former Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, in a well-done interview on the June 29 edition of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS:
The Bad: Murdoch's WSJ And Fox Business Dismiss Report
Fox Business's coverage of the Risky Business report ridiculed the impacts of climate change and brushed aside the findings as "scare tactics." On the June 24 edition of Cavuto, Fox Business contributor Lauren Simonetti asserted that the organization is using "scare tactics," going on to entirely dismiss the idea of increasing heat-related mortality, saying "what does that mean -- mortality?"
The Wall Street Journal, also owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, criticized Paulson's call for a carbon tax as one way to help prevent economic catastrophe in a July 1 editorial, writing that it would "end no better" than the 2008 financial crisis:
"Risky Business" endorses a carbon tax, and that option really does share something with subprime loans and exotic financial instruments: Choosing to ration carbon today is a bet about the future--and one likely to end no better.
As a business proposition, Mr. Paulson wants to gamble on new taxes and regulation to prevent even unlikely dangers--regardless of the costs and however minor the gains of U.S. decarbonization may turn out to be in practice.
Speculators like Mr. Paulson are actually inflating a climate regulation bubble--and the real danger isn't that the problem is too big to manage. It's their supposed solution.
However, most economists advocate putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions as the simplest, most effective way to combat climate change. A survey of the top U.S. economists from New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity found a "solid consensus" that climate change is a top threat to "national and global economic sectors," and a whopping 97.9 percent of respondents stated that "pricing carbon emissions through a tax or cap-and-trade system" would be effective in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ugly: CNBC Calls Global Warming A "Groupthink"-Based "Hoax"
In covering the report, CNBC resorted to denial both behind the scenes and on-air. CNBC.com's commentary editor Cindy Perman solicited an economist to write about "global warming being a hoax" in response to the Risky Business report. Unfortunately for her, she mistakenly emailed a website that rebuts climate change denial -- DeSmogBlog -- because they previously profiled Alan Carlin, an economist who denies that greenhouse gas emissions are driving global warming. At the time of this post, CNBC.com does not appear to have published an opinion piece rebutting the Risky Business report.
Yet global warming denial still made it onto the outlet's airwaves: on the June 23 edition of CNBC's Squawk Box, host Joe Kernen suggested that trusting science was "Orwellian groupthink" in response to the report:
It's faith-based now. And you have faith in what the climatologists are saying but you haven't really looked at it yourself that closely.
Andrew, it's groupthink. Look up Orwellian groupthink ... you know what's going to happen? Pitchforks, and people are going to be outside of CNBC, I'm not going to argue on what's faith-based ... but I don't want them protesting out in front of, you know the mobs, because any dissent at this point is not tolerated.