Navigating the labyrinthine machinations of Republican Party climate change policy has always been a bizarre and disorientating experience, but I think it may have just hit a new surrealist high so defiant of rational thought that Kafka and Dali would be proud.
Environmentalists and green business may have despaired of Republican efforts to derail climate change legislation and undermine climate science, but at least there is a certain logical consistency to their obstructionist position. They either do not believe that climate change is man made and therefore think action to tackle it is irrelevant, as is the case with the notorious James Inhofe. Or they believe it is an issue, but reckon current proposals to tackle carbon emissions are ill thought out and run the risk of crippling the economy, as appears to be the case with Lisa Murkowski and John McCain.
You may think they are either scientifically illiterate or tragically short-sighted and catastrophically wrong on both counts, but at least you can understand the reasoning behind their various attacks on the administration's climate change policy.
However, recent attempts to reverse official Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidance advising firms on how climate-related risks could qualify as "material risks" that should be reported to shareholders resolutely defies any attempt to uncover the logic that inspired them.
Late last month, Wyoming Republican senator John Barrasso tabled a bill that would block the SEC requirement that firms assess whether climate change qualifies as a material risk to their business, arguing "it's clear that the SEC should focus on its core mission of protecting American investors and maintaining fair markets". He added that "instead, the SEC now wants to devote time and resources to climate change. This is absurd."
Well, something is absurd here, but I'm not sure it is the SEC.
The sole purpose of the SEC's guidance is to protect American investors and was developed at the behest of institutional investors concerned that they did not have enough insight into how firms are preparing to address climate change and related carbon regulations.
If you are an investor in an insurance company or an oil firm would you feel more or less protected knowing that the company has assessed the potential long term impacts of climate change or carbon pricing mechanisms?
What is so bizarre about Barrasso's intervention is this is one of those rare instances where the acceptance or otherwise of climate change science is irrelevant.
As an investor you can privately believe that global warming is the biggest hoax perpetrated on humanity since the moon landings, but that won't change the view of the vast majority of global leaders and the liklihood that we will see more environmental regulations in the coming years. As a result I'm betting you still want to know whether or not the coal-fired power plant you are investing in has bothered to work out whether it will still be economically viable if a carbon tax is introduced.
Similarly, you may think that new health and safety regulations are entirely unnecessary and part of a silent socialist revolution, but that does not stop them being a potential material risk to a business that should at least be acknowledged in its market filings.
Moreover, the SEC guidance is exactly that, guidance. A firm could produce an annual report in which it states that it has investigated potential climate risks and found that it faces no potential opportunities or risks as a result of climate change and related regulations and incentives. It could even state the board has looked at the science and concluded climate change is not happening.
How could anyone argue that an investor has no right to know where a firm stands on one of the defining corporate issues of the age, even if that same investor believes the issue in question will ultimately fall back down the agenda?
Republicans can oppose climate change regulations and spread misinformation about climate change science as much as they like - after all that is their democratic right and it is what they believe they were elected to do. But knee jerk opposition to anything and everything with the words climate change in the title will only serve to damage US investors and further highlight the dangerous rejection of scientific thought and rational risk management that is at the heart of the Grand Old Party's climate change policy.
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