Ramping up the focus on the economic consequences of global warming, the newly minted Risky Business Project has unveiled a report predicting billions of dollars in damage if government fails to intervene.
The report is laden with photos of recent hurricanes, floods, and storms, hoping to connect these weather events to the burning of fossil fuels and the connection to a changing climate.
The news conference accompanying the launch of the report Tuesday featured several of the Risky Business committee members, a who’s who of government and Wall Street titans who have all had a hand in steering hundreds of billions in public and private capital.
Their ultimate aim is to coax industry and government into passing new taxes to help shore up economic losses educed by climate change.
“This report outlines climate risks by region and industry and puts a concrete dollar figure on those risks for the first time,” said former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of the Risky Business Project. “It makes the true cost of inaction on climate change frighteningly clear.”
As if Bloomberg’s presence wasn’t enough, he was joined by former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs CEO turned navigator of the 2008 financial crisis, as a key committee member and co-chair. They’re joined by Tom Steyer, a former hedge fund manager reportedly worth nearly US$2 billion who has been extremely active in advocating for climate change policies through his financial support of Democratic politicians.
And they’re not the only big names leading the ticket.
“I have come to believe that climate change is the existential issue of our age. I believe that if we don’t effectively address climate change that the effects can not only be severe, but I believe they can be catastrophic,” said Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton and former banking executive at both Goldman Sachs and Citibank. He led the latter while it was bailed out by the US government.
Rubin got more than $126 million in compensation during his few years at Citibank, at the same time the company received $45 billion in taxpayer money.
So what’s the point of building an all-star line-up of business and political risk managers united in their concern for the economic consequences of climate change?
“What we need is strong policy action to prevent the very worst outcomes, and that takes action by our national government,” said Paulson. When a reporter asked about the potential for carbon taxes, committee members deferred.
“What we know is that we’re facing immense danger if we don’t change course,” said Rubin. “That’s what we know.”
Critics aren’t sure it’s that simple.
“Although not explicitly stated, the goal of this report is to promote a carbon dioxide pricing scheme such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, which, if implemented, would levy huge costs on the American people,” Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit firm, said in a statement.
“This report is yet another PR scare tactic to convince people that our most reliable energy resources are bad for us, when, in fact, the opposite is true. America’s environment, air quality, and standard of living is better in large part because of our energy use,” said Pyle.
Risky Business’ report says between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of existing coastal property will “likely be below sea level nationwide” by the year 2050. According to the International Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment report, the century long average for sea level rise from 1880 to 2000 was less than 1 millimeter per year. For the next century, the worst case scenario predicts six inches of sea level rise by 2099.
The report also claims, among other things, raising temperatures will significantly reduce labor productivity as southern regions will “become too hot by mid-century for people to work outside during parts of the day.”
The Risky Business Project is funded by a collection of nonprofits, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute, and TomKat Charitable Trust. It also receives a good amount of funding from NextGen Climate Action, a political action committee funded entirely by Tom Steyer.
Steyer has dropped close to $20 million in NextGen Climate Action, funneling $5 million into the Senate Majority PAC, according to documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission. The PAC has already spent $6 million in 2014, including $145,684 on advertisements against Republican senatorial candidates running in primary elections.
Risky Business communications director Matthew Lewis did not return a request for comment.
This article first appeared on Watchdog.org.