Will Business Network CNBC Ask GOP Candidates About Business Leaders' Calls For Climate Action?

CNBC will host the third GOP presidential primary debate on October 28, which is set to focus on economic issues. So will the network that describes itself as the “world leader in business news” ask the candidates to reconcile their positions on climate change with the views of prominent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and many of America's leading businesses and financial leaders, who have expressed support for climate action and warned of the severe economic risks associated with unchecked global warming?

CNBC To Host Third GOP Presidential Debate, Focusing On Economy

CNBC To Host Third GOP Presidential Debate With Economy As “Centerpiece. On October 28, CNBC -- the network that bills itself as the “world leader in business news” -- will host 10 Republican presidential candidates for the third GOP primary debate, which will focus on the economy. In a news release, CNBC Chairman Mark Hoffman said, “Presidential elections are often won or lost based on core economic positions, understandings and values ... Our nation's economy and place in the world, job growth, entrepreneurship and the pursuit of the American dream live at the very center of CNBC's mission each day and will be the centerpiece of our line of focused questioning at this debate.” [CNBC.com, accessed 10/26/15; 7/16/15; accessed 10/26/15]

Republican Senator Joins Many Of America's Largest Companies In Making Economic Case For Climate Action

GOP Senator Up For Re-election Supports Clean Power Plan, Citing Economic Risks Of Not Acting On Climate Change. On October 25, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who is up for reelection in 2016, expressed support for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which fights climate change by establishing the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. A press release on Ayotte's website cited several New Hampshire businesses that support the plan, including Smuttynose Brewing Company, Timberland, and Worthen Industries, and said that Ayotte discussed the plan “with members of [the] business community” and other stakeholders before declaring her support:

Several New Hampshire businesses have expressed support for the plan, including Smuttynose Brewing Company, Timberland, and Worthen Industries. Ayotte released the following statement:

“It's so im­port­ant that we pro­tect New Hamp­shire's beau­ti­ful en­vir­on­ment for our eco­nomy and for our fu­ture. After care­fully re­view­ing this plan and talk­ing with mem­bers of our busi­ness com­munity, en­vir­on­ment­al groups, and oth­er stake­hold­ers, I have de­cided to sup­port the Clean Power Plan to ad­dress cli­mate change through clean en­ergy solu­tions that will pro­tect our en­vir­on­ment. New Hampshire is already well on its way to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan through positive steps it has already taken. I will carefully monitor implementation of the plan to make sure there is sufficient flexibility for New Hampshire to meet its goals and that the plan does not have an adverse impact on Granite State energy costs.” [Ayotte.Senate.gov, 10/25/15; Ballotpedia.org, accessed 10/26/15]

81 American Companies Signed Pledge Of Support For International Climate Change Agreement, Citing Economic Harms Of Delaying Action. The White House announced commitments from 81 companies “from across the American economy” that have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge in order to “demonstrate their support for action on climate change and the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.” According to the White House, the 81 companies -- which include some of the country's largest companies, such as Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Coca-Cola, and Cargill -- “have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.” The pledge includes the following:

We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment. [WhiteHouse.gov, 10/19/15]

World's Largest Food Companies Have Called For Action On Climate Change. A joint letter signed by the chief executive officers of some of the world's largest food companies -- including General Mills, Kellogg Company, Mars, Inc., Nestle USA, and more -- called on world leaders to “meaningfully address the reality of climate change.” The letter stated that the “challenge presented by climate change will require all of us -- government, civil society and business -- to do more with less. For companies like ours, that means producing more food on less land using fewer natural resources. If we don't take action now, we risk not only today's livelihoods, but also those of future generations.” [Ceres.org, 10/1/15; 10/1/15]

14 Major Corporations Signed Statement “In Support Of A Paris Climate Agreement.” A statement endorsed by 14 major corporations voiced support for a global climate agreement at the U.N. climate conference in Paris this December. The statement warned of the economic risks posed by climate change, adding that “delaying action will result in greater risks and costs.” The statement added that an “effective response to climate change requires strong government leadership, and presents both enormous challenges and significant economic opportunities for the private sector.” It was endorsed by Alcoa, Alstom, BHP Billiton, BP, Calpine, HP, Intel, LafargeHolcim, National Grid, PG&E, Rio Tinto, Schneider Electric, Shell, and Siemens Corporation. [Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 10/14/15]

Leading U.S. Banking Institutions: Climate Change Poses "Significant Risks To The Prosperity And Growth Of The Global Economy." Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo recently issued a joint statement on climate change that cited the “significant risks” it poses “to the prosperity and growth of the global economy,” and called for “leadership and cooperation among governments for commitments leading to a strong global climate agreement.” [Ceres.org, accessed 10/22/15]

2013 Survey: Seventy Percent Of Companies Believe Climate Change Can Significantly Affect Their Revenues. Research from Accenture carried out for The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in 2013 found that nearly three-quarters of companies surveyed “believe that climate change has the potential to affect their revenue significantly,” according to a press release. The report is based on information from 2,415 companies, including Dell, L'Oreal and Walmart, which represent a combined spending power of $1 trillion. From the report: 

Companies that responded indicated that they are more aware than ever of the considerable risks that climate change poses to their global supply chains.


The business continuity risk to the global corporate supply chain posed by climate change is clear. 70% of the respondents this year identify a current or future risk related to climate change--risks with a potential to significantly affect business or revenue. More than half of the supply chain risks identified due to drought and precipitation extremes are already affecting respondents' operations or are expected to have an effect within the next five years. [CDP, 1/22/13; 2013]

Climate Change Is A Pressing Economic Issue: Numerous Reports And Studies Stress Economic Risks

New Study: Climate Change Could Reduce Per Capita GDP In U.S. By 36 Percent By 2100. A recent study led by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley found that climate change could “reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality.” In its coverage of the study, the Associated Press reported that "[t]he authors calculate a warmer U.S. in 2100 will have a gross domestic product per person that's 36 percent lower than it would be if warming stopped about now." [Nature, 10/21/15; Associated Press, 10/21/15]  

National Climate Assessment: $1 Trillion Of Property And Structures At Risk From Climate Change-Fueled Sea Level Rise. The National Climate Assessment -- a federal report compiled from hundreds of scientific papers on the impacts of climate change -- found that “5,790 square miles and more than $1 trillion of property and structures are at risk of inundation from sea level rise of two feet above current sea level. ... Roughly half of the vulnerable property value is located in Florida, and the most vulnerable port cities are Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Virginia Beach.”  [U.S. Global Change Research Program, 5/6/14; accessed 10/22/15]     

Risky Business Report: “Business As Usual” Approach To Climate Will Lead To Large-Scale Property Loss And Decreased Productivity. The Risky Business Project, which is chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, climate philanthropist Tom Steyer, and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, released a report in 2014 that provided a comprehensive analysis of the potential economic impacts of unchecked climate change in the United States. The report determined that the current path of “business as usual” -- emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for driving catastrophic climate change without restrictions -- could reduce labor productivity of outdoor workers by up to three percent, reduce agricultural yields by up to 70 percent in some regions, and likely place $238 to $507 billion worth of property below sea level by 2100. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Paulson called for business leaders to weigh in on the risks of climate change to prevent an economic crash on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis or worse. [Risky Business Project, June 2014; The New York Times, 6/21/14]

White House Council of Economic Advisers Report: Failure To Act On Climate Could Cost U.S. At Least $150 Billion More Per Year.  The White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report in 2014 detailing the economic costs of failing to act on climate change. Based on “a leading aggregate damage estimate in the climate economics literature,” the report found that the nation will suffer at least $150 billion in additional economic damages each year if global temperatures increase by three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, rather than two degrees Celsius:

[A]lthough delaying action can reduce costs in the short run, on net, delaying action to limit the effects of climate change is costly. Because CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere, delaying action increases CO2 concentrations. Thus, if a policy delay leads to higher ultimate CO2 concentrations, that delay produces persistent economic damages that arise from higher temperatures and higher CO2 concentrations.


Based on a leading aggregate damage estimate in the climate economics literature, a delay that results in warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output. To put this percentage in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is approximately $150 billion. The incremental cost of an additional degree of warming beyond 3° Celsius would be even greater. Moreover, these costs are not onetime, but are rather incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by increased climate change resulting from the delay. [Whitehouse.gov, July 2014]

Center for American Progress Report: Climate-Fueled Wildfires Are Becoming Increasingly Costly In Western States, Including Colorado. A recent report by the Center for American Progress detailed how climate change is worsening wildfires in the Western states and consequently driving up costs for wildfire suppression. The report notes that wildfire-related spending by the federal government has already more than doubled since the 1990s, and projects that over the next decade the U.S. Forest Service “will likely spend an average of 80 percent more per year than it has in the past five years to fight fires in Western states.” The analysis breaks down the current and projected wildfire suppression costs by state, including Colorado, the state in which the CNBC debate will be held, where annual wildfire suppression costs are expected to increase from $43.9 million to $79.3 million by 2024. [Center for American Progress, October 2015]

Citibank Report: Investing In Low-Carbon Economy Would Save Trillions. An August report from banking giant Citibank found that shifting to a low-carbon economy would save trillions of dollars in reduced energy costs and avoided climate impacts:

The energy industry is faced with choices, and in this report, we outline two scenarios: 1) a business as usual or 'Inaction' on climate change scenario, and 2) a different energy mix that offers a lower carbon alternative. We find that out to 2040 the levels of spend are remarkably similar; indeed the 'Action' scenario actually results in an undiscounted saving of $1.8 trillion over the period, as while we spend more on renewables and energy efficiency in the early years, the savings in fuel costs in later years offset earlier investment.

If the scientists are correct, the potential liabilities of not acting are equally vast. The cumulative 'lost' GDP from the impacts of climate change could be significant, with a central case of 0.7%-2.5% of GDP to 2060, equating to $44 trillion on an undiscounted basis. If we derive a risk-adjusted return on the extra capital investment in following a low carbon path, and compare it to the avoided costs of climate change, we see returns at the low point of between 1% and 4%, rising to between 3% and 10% in later years. [Citi, August 2015]

New Climate Economy Report: Acting On Climate Change Can Spur Economic Growth. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which is chaired by former heads of government, economists, and other experts, determined in its 2014 New Climate Economy report that “countries at all levels of income now have the opportunity to build lasting economic growth at the same time as reducing the immense risks of climate change. This is made possible by structural and technological changes unfolding in the global economy and opportunities for greater economic efficiency.” From a Reuters article on the report:

Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use.


“It is possible to tackle climate change and it is possible to have economic growth at the same time,” Felipe Calderon, a former Mexican president and head of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, told a news conference.

Many governments and businesses wrongly fear that measures to slow climate change will undermine jobs and growth, he said. [New Climate Economy, accessed 9/24/15; Reuters, 9/16/14]

EPA's Clean Power Plan A Key Component To Reaching Global Agreement, And Its Economic Benefits Outweigh Its Costs

Landmark U.S. Climate Plan Will Bring Economic Benefits That Outweigh The Costs. The EPA has determined that the Clean Power Plan will bring net economic benefits. As the Union of Concerned Scientists noted, the EPA found that the rule “will deliver billions of dollars in net benefits each year, estimated at $26 billion to $45 billion in 2030.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 8/5/15]

Independent Study Found EPA Clean Power Plan Will Boost Jobs. A report by Doug Meade of the University of Maryland's Interindustry Forecasting Project and Jason Price of Industrial Economics found that the Clean Power Plan will likely increase U.S. employment by up to 273,000 jobs. InsideClimate News reported on the findings:

The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to crack down on carbon pollution from power plants would create more than a quarter of a million additional jobs, according to a new analysis by economists using a trusted, sophisticated model.

The findings support the EPA's argument that the benefits of its approach exceed the costs, and undermine the claims of the fossil fuel industry that the rules would cripple the economy.

“The proposed Clean Power Plan is likely to increase U.S. employment by up to 273,000 jobs,” said the report, which extends the forecast out to the year 2040. “For perspective, this is roughly the equivalent of one month of healthy job gains.”

Significant job losses at shuttered coal-fired plants and at coal mines would be offset not only by investments in cleaner sources of power, but also by productivity gains across the whole economy--and by overall reductions in wholesale prices of electricity, the authors said. [InsideClimate News, 4/21/15]

CNBC Has Poor Track Record Of Covering Climate Change

2013 Analyses Showed More Than Half Of CNBC Climate Change Coverage Included Denial. Two separate Media Matters analyses conducted in 2013 found that a majority of CNBC's coverage on climate change were segments and discussions that cast doubt on its existence. In the first half of 2013, Media Matters found that 51 percent of CNBC's climate coverage cast doubt on the scientific consensus that global warming is real and manmade. A follow-up analysis similarly found that from June 14-September 17, 2013, 55 percent of the network's climate coverage included denial that human activities are driving global warming.


[Media Matters, 6/18/13; 9/18/13]

CNBC Solicited Op-Ed Calling Global Warming A “Hoax” In 2014. In 2014, CNBC went looking for an op-ed writer to write a piece for its website about “global warming being a hoax” in an attempt to counter a new report that illustrated the economic costs of failing to take action on climate change. According to Republic Report, CNBC mistakenly reached out to DeSmogBlog, a website that rebuts climate science denial, when it invited climate denier Alan Carlin to write an op-ed for CNBC.com about “his general thoughts on global warming being a hoax.” [Media Matters, 6/26/14]