BPSDBThe US Chamber of Commerce (CoC) disrupted a Yes Men /Avaaz Action Factory press conference on Monday as part of an elaborate prank meant to distract attention from the Chamber’s regressive and ignorant stance on climate issues. Some have suggested that it was the Yes Men who were pranking the US Chamber of Commerce (here and here) rather than the other way around. However, given that the Yes Men’s climate policies (full text of speech here and discussed here) are reality based and rational, whereas the CoC‘s are obviously an irrational comic farce, that really doesn’t sound very credible (see also here).
Chamber of Hope
For me one of the most hopeful signs that we might be starting to take climate seriously is the plight of the US Chamber of Commerce after it’s most recent episode of climate change Denial. There are three elements to the CoC story that I find to be very hopeful
The Yes Men action was credible
Corporate flight from the CoC
Fallout and CoC’s attempts at damage control
The Yes Men action was credible
The Yes Man action (NB using the word “prank” trivializes this legitimate political action, so even though it conveys a positive spirit of fun I prefer to avoid it) was found to be credible enough that it took in The New York Times, Reuters and CNBC, and subsequently others (eg Fox Business Network and Scientific American).
If you think about it, this suggests a fairly significant shift in the broader social belief about what is possible. Even a couple of years ago such an about face by the CoC would have been considered so improbable as to require thorough fact checking. That at least some major and generally credible organizations thought the story to be believable enough to be taken at face value is a pretty impressive change in what we believe are the cultural and social norms.
This is one of the most important ‘invisible’ aspects of any social change. Before a change can happen a society must be able to imagine that it could, and apparently this is starting to occur.
Further, the coverage of the CoC itself has been neutral to unsympathetic, even by the very agencies that got hoaxed. Absent from the reporting the has been portrayals of the Yes Men as some form of eco-terrorists or nutbars.
Instead much of the reporting cites the corporate defections from the CoC (below) and the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Meme which the CoC has been so desperately trying to distance itself from (eg The Washington Post).
Not so surprising given that the CoC spokeperson in the video above (worth watching) promises to speak for the CoC on climate issues, and then refuses to answer any questions about the CoC and climate. In that sense I wonder if breaking up the event like that was not something of an own goal?
Ever since the CoC put out a call for political trials on climate science corporations have been distancing themselves from the CoC to the point of leaving the agency.
- Mohawk Paper Joins Chamber of Commerce Exodus
- Apple Becomes Latest Company to Abandon U.S. Chamber Over Climate
- Nike Resigns From The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Board Of Directors Over Global Warming Disagreements
- Energy giant Exelon quits Chamber over climate denial
- Exelon Latest to Leave US Chamber of Commerce; Is Nike Next?
- Pacific Gas & Electric Company Leaves U.S. Chamber of Commerce Over Its Global Warming Denialism
- Levi Strauss & Co
While the CoC has attempted to portray the losses from their ranks as representing only a tiny fraction of their overall membership, the truth is rather different. For one thing the actual CoC membership is only a fraction of what they claim (here, here and here).
While the Chambers total head count may not be much affected by the firms that have left, these businesses are huge and the loss in terms of economic and political clout is significant.
Further, these are just the ones that we have heard about. Apple will make the news when it leaves, Irene’s Hardware won’t. Certainly local Chanbers of Commerce are leaving, have there been more bailouts by smaller businesses? who knows other than the CoC? and you can bet that they won’t tell.
These are not empty policy statements, this is real action by the corporations in question. Granted there is no direct cost to the firms, and presumably even some PR benefit, but the fact remains that they are leaving the largest and what used to be the most effective business lobby in the US. In that sense there is a very real cost to these actions, and that they are happening is quite significant (see also “Exit through lobby“)
How and why they left
The companies that are abandoning the CoC are doing so proudly, sending out press releases and statements announcing their departure and the reasons for it.
“We believe that our continued membership in an organization that vigorously opposes sensible climate change policies is detrimental to our position as a business leader with a strong record in the areas of environmental innovation and climate protection,”
George F. Milner, Mohawk’s Senior VP, Energy, Environmental, and Government Affairs.
“I think the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t act in in the best interest of business. … I think it’s a reputational risk to be associated with the chamber, given their behavior.”
Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder, executive chairman, Seventh Generation
“The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible,” said Rowe. “Putting a price on carbon is essential, because it will force us to do the cheapest things, like energy efficiency, first.”
John Rowe, Exelon CEO
In contrast, there does not seem to be any line ups of corporate entities eager to declare their solidarity and support for the CoC’s stand. No doubt there are many who are quite happy with it, even some who feel it does not go far enough, but they aren’t drawing attention to it.
I guess they assume that declaring support would just draw fire and they would rather that the CoC take the flack. Thankfully that’s not going to work as people are confronting the CoC membership about where they stand on the CoC’s actions:
Meanwhile 43 investor groups, representing billions in holdings, have together asked many firms to distance themselves from the Chamber’s position.
Fallout and CoC’s damage control
So far the CoC is taking a ‘stand firm/stay the course‘ position, while attempting to maintain the fiction that they are seeking “real solutions” to the climate crisis.
Of the Yes Men action
“Public relations hoaxes undermine the genuine effort to find solutions on the challenge of climate change,” Thomas Collamore, a spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
“These irresponsible tactics are a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases.”
The Chamber is seeking legitimate solutions to climate change? The CoC has a long history of Denial (here, here and here) and the most recent efforts are nothing less than an attempt to smother any meaningful action by the US Government (here and here). Even the business community calls “bullshit!”
‘ … an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another. Unfortunately, it is difficult to read the Chamber’s latest maneuvers on this issue as anything but the latter”
Peter Darbee, PG&E chairman and CEO
“We understand that you may have received e-mails, letters and others communications from various groups asking your organization to end its association with the U.S. Chamber.”
in which they characterise their opponents as “…trial lawyers, activist unions, environmental extremists, …” FYI David Chavern, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the ones who think you are regressive morons are main stream scientists, the EPA, investor groups, your current and former membership (here and here), local Chambers of Commerce (and here and here), and members of your own Board.
… hardly environmental extremists by any measure other than Glenn Beck’s and the equally clueless. And clueless the CoC Executive seems to be, clearly misunderstanding just how the battle lines are drawn on this issue.
The truth is that the climate change issue has left the CoC in a shambles. Not just internal dissention about the policy, but even how the policy was determined. Mainstream media is reporting on the CoC in terms like “… increasingly shrill, doom-saying opposition to climate change legislation …” (“Chamber of overstated horrors“) and “Unfortunately for Tom [Donohue] , the world is finally catching on to his game.”(“Defections Expose Chamber’s Dirty Little Secrets“) (more here).
The New Yorker and even Business Week are questioning the CoC’s legitimacy. There are campaigns to pressure businesses to clarify where they stand on the CoC’s position (here) and to take action to pressure the CoC.
More is sure to follow.
The Chamber of Commerce is pretending to be outraged by the Yes Men/Avaaz “Hoax” and say they will ask police to investigate. As a number of people are noting, it is the Chamber that have been hoaxing the public for years with their lies about climate change.
I would add that it is they who are the criminals. They want police and a trial? Let’s indulge them, because they definitely need to be investigated and be put on trial.
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