The Global Warming Debate Cuts Two Ways Energy Industry Debuts New Ad Campaign This Week, Singing New Tune on the Threat of Climate Change

Article excerpt

The debate over global warming typically features environmentalists and big business types hollering at each other through a fog of scientific argument and economic cant.

Lately, however, the battle lines have blurred as more companies cross over to acknowledge that "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide could well cause climate change. Whether the argument and cant have lessened is another matter.

A national ad campaign this week features 13 major corporations warning that "Climate change is serious business - for all of us." Among the companies (whose combined revenues are more than $340 billion) are Boeing, British Petroleum, Lockheed Martin, Maytag, United Technologies, and 3M. "Instead of choosing between business and the environment, we want to draw on the ingenuity and expertise of all sectors to both address the climate change problem and sustain economic growth," says Eileen Claussen, executive director of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which is sponsoring the TV and newspaper ads. But even before this latest development, the ideological wall had begun to crack in what has become one of the most profound and controversial environmental issues in history. Last month, Shell Oil Co. broke ranks with most petroleum producers in announcing that it would leave the Global Climate Coalition, an industry trade group that lobbies against government- imposed limits on carbon emissions. "I find myself increasingly persuaded that a climate effect may be occurring," said Mark Moody-Stuart of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, the world's largest oil company. Mr. Moody-Stuart is slated to become Shell's CEO in July. Speaking to energy industry officials in February, the Shell official warned against "a tobacco-industry- like reluctance to admit the possibility of any problem." Late last year, Sun Oil Co. (the Pennsylvania company that markets Sunoco gasoline) acknowledged that "there is sufficient scientific concern about man-made climate impacts to justify initiation of prudent mitigation measures now." In a letter to President Clinton just before the December Kyoto summit on climate change, Sun chief executive Robert Campbell said the administration was "right on the target" in its proposal to limit carbon emissions - a statement that put him at considerable odds with most of his colleagues in the oil industry. Last year, British Petroleum chief John Browne said, "It would be unwise and potentially dangerous to ignore the mounting concern" over global warming. …