Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corporations Focus on Climate Change Impact

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corporations Focus on Climate Change Impact

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Coca-Cola had always been more focused on its economic bottom line than on global warming, but when the company lost a lucrative operating license in India because of a serious water shortage there in 2004, things began to change.

After a decade of increasing hits to Coke's balance sheet as global droughts dried up the water needed to produce its soda, the company has embraced the idea of climate change as an economically disruptive force.

"Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years," said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke's vice president of environment and water resources, listing the problems he said were also disrupting the company's supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. "When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats."

Coke reflects a growing view among U.S. business leaders and mainstream economists, who see global warming as an economically disruptive force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk. Their position is at striking odds with the long- standing argument, advanced by the coal industry and others, that policies to curb carbon emissions are more economically harmful than the impacts of climate change.

"The bottom line is that the policies will increase the cost of carbon and electricity," said economist Roger Bezdek, who produced a report for the coal lobby released this week. "Even the most conservative estimates peg the social benefit of carbon-based fuels as 50 times greater than its supposed social cost."

Some tycoons are no longer listening. At the Swiss resort of Davos, corporate leaders and politicians gathered for the annual four-day World Economic Forum will devote all of today to panels and talks on the threat of climate change. The emphasis will be less about saving polar bears and more about promoting economic self- interest.

In Philadelphia, the American Economic Association this month inaugurated as its new president Yale economist William D. Nordhaus, one of the world's foremost experts on the economics of climate change. …

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