Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fatal Short-Termism: I have long suspected that the Bush administration would be less remembered by history for its actions in the war on terrorism than for its inaction on the far greater danger of global climate change.

An administration driven by ideology rather than facts managed to fabricate reasons for invading Iraq despite the complete absence of any supporting evidence for its claims, while at the same time ignoring an overwhelming scientific consensus around global warming and electing to pretend it just wasn’t happening.

In a way there’s nothing new about the conclusions of a report, issued today by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, which focuses on the potential economic impacts of climate change. The issue has never been whether we could afford to cut carbon emissions in order to slow the pace of warming, but rather whether—as a society—we would prefer to pay millions today, or billions tomorrow.

It should be no surprise that the Bush administration has chosen the latter. Almost all of its policies have been based on the same premise: that it is acceptable to steal from future generations so that today’s voters can live more comfortably. The burgeoning deficit is only the most obvious symptom of this approach.

What’s telling is that big business (with some notable exceptions: ExxonMobil) has been far quicker and more responsible in its approach to climate change than the government. Companies such as BP, business leaders such as Richard Branson, and a host of corporate titans have taken steps to improve their environmental performance and reduce their emissions.

Business leaders are notoriously focused on the short term, driven by quarterly profits, but the truth is that most of them care about the long-term sustainability of their enterprises. They make an attempt to balance the need for short-term profits with the desire for long-term security. But the current administration in the U.S. is uninterested in anything that happens after the next election cycle. That’s somebody else’s problem. As today’s report makes clear. It’s yours and mine.

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