In recent years, climate change activists have increasingly turned their attention from issues like the Paris Climate Accord – which President-elect Joe Biden promises to rejoin – to corporate climate activism. A small but vocal minority of climate catastrophists is pressuring large corporations into making lofty net-zero pledges and promising to divest from fossil fuels. Many large investment firms and banks are joining a global energy discrimination campaign, refusing to fund businesses in fossil fuel production and other industries like petrochemicals, agriculture, forestry, and mining. Even the Rockefeller Foundation, built with John D. Rockefeller’s oil riches, is now divesting from fossil fuels.
In other areas, the energy companies are taking the lead themselves. ExxonMobil, for example, recently announced that it will begin reporting what climate activists call “scope 3” greenhouse gas emissions. Scope 1 emissions refer to those generated by a company directly on its premises; scope 2 are those emissions generated indirectly; and scope 3 are emissions not under a company’s direct control, such as those from its suppliers or distributors.
The goal of corporate climate activism is to stigmatize private companies with the “sin” of greenhouse gas emissions, even though these companies provide products and services that make our lives dramatically better. If ExxonMobil starts a trend with its decision to report scope 3, American businesses will be penalized not only for their own emissions but also for the emissions of all the businesses they work with. Even a business that sincerely works to reduce its carbon footprint – and even if it does so using effective tools like direct carbon capture and utilization, rather than just buying carbon credits or offsets – would be penalized for each of its vendors’ actions.
Common sense dictates that we shouldn’t be punished for what we can’t control. And scope 3 has other problems: the process of tracking emissions across a supply chain means that emissions will be assigned to companies more than once.
Governments and corporate leaders trying to appear eco-conscious should lighten up on scope 3 emissions for the same reason that they should refuse to kowtow to climate alarmists’ demands: eliminating these emissions is a terribly expensive and harmful way to deal with climate change.
Globally recognized climate data models project that even banning all U.S. emissions by 2030 – that’s all gas-powered cars, all fossil fuels, and even all gas-powered appliances – would only help temperatures dip by less than a microscopic two-tenths of a degree by the end of the century. In other words, the untold trillions that it would cost to totally restructure our economy would barely move the global temperature needle.
Around the world, we’re suffering from climate change anxiety for nothing. This is the best time in history to be alive. Our lifespans, health, comfort, individual freedoms, and quality of life have improved dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. Yes, average temperatures have risen slightly over that time, but we have become more resilient to Earth’s climate, not less. You and I are 98.9% less likely to die in a climate-related natural disaster today than our great-grandparents were.
Holding businesses liable for not just their emissions but also their vendors’ emissions is a nonsensical and counterproductive approach to climate change. It won’t affect climate change – but it will punish companies for their success.
This commentary originally appeared in RealClearEnergy on December 22, 2020.