Monday, June 13, 2005

The debate over global warming just got a bit more interesting, as several big corporations and religious groups are jumping into the picture...on the side of science.
Don't look now, but the ground has shifted on global warming. After decades of debate over whether the planet is heating and, if so, whose fault it is, divergent groups are joining hands with little fanfare to deal with a problem they say people can no longer avoid.

GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt recently announced that his company, which reports $135 billion in annual revenue, will spend $1.5 billion a year to research conservation, pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases. Joining him for the announcement were executives from such mainline corporations as American Electric Power, Boeing and Cinergy.

Religious groups, such as the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals and National Council of Churches, have joined with scientists to call for action on climate change under the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. " Global warming is a universal moral challenge," the partnership's statement says.

And high-profile politicians from both parties are getting into the act. For example, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a reduction of more than 80% over the next five decades in his state's emission of greenhouse gases that heat in the atmosphere.

To be sure, many companies - most notably oil industry leader ExxonMobil - still express skepticism about the effects of global warming. And the Bush administration has supported research and voluntary initiatives but has pulled back from a multi-nation pact on environmental constraints.

Nonetheless, the tides of change appear to be moving on.

"As big companies fall off the 'I don't believe in climate change' bandwagon, people will start to take this more seriously," says environmental scientist Don Kennedy, editor in chief of the journal Science. Companies aren't changing because of a sudden love for the environment, Kennedy says, but because they see change as an opportunity to protect their investments.

"On the business side, it just looks like climate change is not going away," says Kevin Leahy of Cinergy, a Cincinnati-based utility that reports $4.7 billion in annual revenue and provides electricity, mostly generated from coal, to 1.5 million customers. Most firms see global warming as a problem whose risks have to be managed, he says.

Pressure for reforms may come most strongly from "socially responsible" investors. "We make bottom-line arguments to companies to make decisions in the interests of their shareholders," says John Wilson of Christian Brothers Investment Services, which manages $3.5 billion in investor funds. The firm advises 1,000 Catholic institutions, such as churches, schools and hospitals.

A Christian Brothers resolution in May asked ExxonMobil "to explain the scientific basis for its ongoing denial of the broad scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global climate change." The resolution garnered 10.3% of shareholders' votes, representing 665 million shares worth more than $36 billion, despite the opposition of management.

"The future of energy is plainly moving away from fossil fuels and we want the companies (that) we invest in to explain how they plan to adjust," Wilson says.

Dooley, of the Battelle Institute, says: "We need a whole series of 'home runs' and maybe even a couple of 'grand slams' to successfully address this problem. More efficient refrigerators, better and cheaper solar cells, hybrid automobiles, fuel cells, power plants that capture and store their (carbon dioxide) deep below the surface and nuclear power. They all have important roles to play."
I've always thought the energy companies, especially the oil companies, were downright stupid for denying global warming, and fighting against conservation and investment in alternative energy sources. They SHOULD be LEADING THE WAY in alternative fuel research; climate issues aside, eventually the oil WILL run out, and they'll have nothing to drill for, nothing to refine, nothing to sell. How much further along in the search for alternative energy sources might we be, if they had taken the millions of dollars they currently spend lobbying AGAINST environmental regulations and alt. fuel research, and spent it ON alternative fuel research. If they were to make the breakthroughs in research and development of alternative energy sources instead of, say, the government, or the car companies, or other corporations, THEY would be the ones to profit from it first! I mean, "HELLO, McFly!" Why do I have to be the one to think of these things?