Climate Change is Bad for Business

South Lake Tahoe -photo: Ken Lund, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Opinion

Between the heat and the wildfire smoke, it’s hard to remember the quiet peace I feel when I wake up to find snow on the ground. My husband vowed to retire to the Sierras after his first ski run at Heavenly 15 years ago. Growing up in the Midwest, I dreaded winter. After we moved here, I fell in love with cross-country skiing. 

But winters are growing more unpredictable, snowfall patterns more erratic. And wildfire smoke restricts the number of days we can be outside without breathing unhealthy air. Climate change is hurting the places we love. 

A shorter ski season and more days filled with wildfire smoke means lost revenue for the outdoor industry. Heavenly’s parent company, Vail Resorts, is so concerned about the threat of climate change to their business that they joined over 400 businesses and investors who recently sent an open letter to President Biden calling on his administration to “address the climate crisis at the pace and scale it demands.” They specifically told him the US should set a goal to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “…by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.”

It may surprise you that many blue-chip stocks signed the letter. Coca-Cola, Ford, GE, GM, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, Levi Strauss, Verizon, and Walmart all signed. So did large tech companies like Apple, Dell, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, and Amazon. They know that climate change threatens their bottom line.

The US Chamber of Commerce also understands. On January 19, 2021, they announced their support of a market-based approach to accelerate the reduction of GHG emissions across the U.S. economy like a carbon tax.

GHG emissions are caused by burning fossil fuels. Everyone knows when the price of something goes up, people buy less of it. So, if we want to get to fewer GHG emissions, then we need to increase the cost of burning fossil fuels. A carbon tax would do just that. It puts a price on the carbon content in fossil fuels. Increasing the cost of fossil fuels creates a powerful incentive for businesses and people to switch to less expensive substitutes like clean energy instead of coal, EVs instead of combustion engines, and heat pumps instead of oil furnaces.   

The US and Australia are the only developed economies without a price on carbon. The European Union (EU) set one up in 2005. Now they are working to impose a carbon tax on carbon intensive goods shipped into the EU from countries that do not have a price on carbon. Canada, our biggest trading partner, is doing the same thing. This will put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage. China is so concerned about these moves by the EU and Canada that they are accelerating the implementation of their current carbon price policy. Russia is now actively debating their own carbon price.  

American CEOs see these changes on the global stage, understand the risks of climate change and worry about America’s small, slow response. They are speaking out because their businesses are at stake. 

On September 15, 2020, the Business Roundtable, a major trade association representing 200 CEOs from America’s leading companies, endorsed a price on carbon. They also understand the cost of not doing enough to address the issue. Their recently updated position on climate change states that ‘unchecked, the changing climate poses significant environmental, economic, public health and security threats to countries around the world, including the United States.’

American businesses support a price on carbon because it is highly effective at reducing GHG emissions. There are several bills in front of Congress right now that tax carbon. One bill in the US House is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.  Over 1,100 US companies support the bill. And it’s not just big companies. Businesses and organizations in northern Nevada support a price on carbon. Recent endorsers include:

  • Be the Change Project
  • ddiibbss, Inc.
  • Down to Earth Composting
  • Edible Reno-Tahoe Magazine
  • Energy Masters
  • Great Basin Community Food Cooperative
  • Heirloom Gardens
  • High Desert Montessori Charter School
  • Potentialist Workshop
  • Prema Farm
  • Reno Food Systems
  • RenoType
  • River School Farm
  • Simple Clean Janitorial
  • Soulful Seeds

American businesses know the risks from climate change hurt more than the outdoor industry. It affects all of us. This problem is too big for individuals and businesses to fight on their own. We need the federal government to do its part. We need strong policies to get to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. It’s time for Rep. Amodei, Sen. Cortez-Masto and Sen. Rosen to sponsor legislation that puts a price on carbon.


Nancy Litchfield and Michelle Hamilton are volunteers for the Reno/Sparks chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Nancy is the Business Outreach Coordinator, and Michelle is the Marketing Communications Manager.


The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of the Sierra Nevada Ally. Our newsroom remains entirely independent of our opinion page. Published opinions further public conversation to fulfill our civic responsibility to challenge authority, act independently of corporate or political influence.