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Globe Editorial

Chamber of overstated horrors

October 3, 2009

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IT IS refreshing to see three energy companies - the nuclear power operator Exelon; Pacific Gas and Electric; and New Mexico’s largest electricity provider, PNM - quitting the US Chamber of Commerce over that organization’s increasingly shrill, doom-saying opposition to climate change legislation in Washington. The chamber claims that limits on greenhouse gas emissions by Congress or the Environmental Protection Agency would be “a job killer,’’ would “completely shut the country down,’’ or, even worse, “virtually destroy the United States.’’

The chamber went completely off the rails in August. It proposed to take the climate change debate all the way back to the 1920s, to a “Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.’’ William Kovacs, the chamber’s vice president for environmental regulation, told the Los Angeles Times that a public hearing on the evidence of climate change “would be evolutionism versus creationism. It would be the science of climate change on trial.’’

The verdict has long been in from the vast majority of climate scientists that humans are changing the atmosphere. What’s becoming increasingly clear is that fighting climate change is good for business, because restrictions on carbon emissions will foster innovations in efficiency and renewable-energy technologies. Last month at a forum in New York - organized in part by the Boston-based business and environmental coalition Ceres - a group of 181 investors handling more than $13 trillion in global assets called for greenhouse gas emission reductions of between 50 percent and 85 percent by 2050.

Going backward eight decades was too much for Exelon, PG&E and PNM. Also protesting somewhat this week was Nike. The sneaker maker did not quit the chamber, but resigned from the board of directors. These are welcome cracks in the stone wall of the chamber. The question is how many more of the chamber’s 3 million members need to quit before the organization alters its retrograde view.

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