Monday, 30 April 2012

Welcome to the Reality-Based Majority

Reuters (and several other news outlets) reported late last week that 75% of Americans support EPA moves to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and that 61% would vote for a Presidential candidate who advocated revenue-neutral carbon taxes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [Update: the original Yale-George Mason survey report can be found here.]

Interestingly, this support crossed party lines.  84% of Democrats, 77% of independents, and a whopping 67% of Republicans would support efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

That's pretty amazing.

Before this survey, one might have concluded that most Americans were opposed to climate change regulation, or were at best confused about the issue. After all, President Obama was unable to pass climate change legislation during his first two years in office. However, one would be wrong.  People only have to look out their windows to see that the types of weather events predicted by climate researchers are coming to pass.  Whatever confusion voters might have experienced is giving way to certainty.

These lopsided poll results came through in the face of the vociferous anti-environmental positions taken by many politicians, an organised disinformation campaign conducted by deep-pocketed lobbyists, and less-than-stellar media coverage.  They show that the vast majority of people are able to see through to the real issues.  The Reality-Based Majority knows that:
  1. Climate change is real and human activity is the leading cause;
  2. It is in our power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change impacts;
  3. The benefits of taking action vastly outweigh the costs.
As I noted five years ago on this blog, climate change deniers and proponents of doing nothing are in the minority.

So what does all of this bode for companies?

The message is clear: pay attention to the survey results.  True, the survey respondents are voters, and were asked about political issues.  However, these same people are also customers, shareholders, and employees.  In addition, many of them may be activists and protesters.

Customers expect the companies from which they buy to uphold high social and environmental standards.  Shareholders want to know that the companies in which they invest are prepared for the future, and working to avoid reputational and financial risk.  Employees want to feel pride in the companies for which they work, and to feel they are helping to make a difference.  And activists want to know that companies are interested in anticipating their concerns for environmental protection rather than waiting to become a protest target.  If I were in charge of a major (or minor) company, I'd get started sooner rather than later.

At Carbon Clear, we have long encouraged companies to face the climate change challenge head-on and embrace the opportunities that come along with complete carbon management.  The survey results from the U.S. show that, when it comes to climate change, the time is right for more businesses to join the Reality-Based Majority.