When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its relatively modest carbon emission limits proposal, preemptively opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was reported that many Chamber members and utilities didn’t actually stand with the Chamber on its opposition to climate progress.
A new survey of small businesses, “Small Business Owners’ Views on Climate & Energy Policy Reform,” indicates the U.S. Chamber is even more isolated in its regressive anti-science position. Especially considering the Chamber’s frequent attempts to claim small businesses as a part of its constituency, the clear call by small business owners to address climate change, evidenced in this report, is remarkable.
Among the major findings:
- 87 percent of business owners named consequences of climate change as potentially harmful to their businesses;
- 64 percent of businesses believe government regulation is needed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants; and
- 57 percent of businesses said that the biggest carbon emitters should make the biggest reductions in carbon emissions and bear most of the costs of reduction efforts.
The findings came from a scientific, national phone survey of 555 small business owners (2 to 99 employees). Significantly, more respondents identified as Republican or independent-leaning Republican (43 percent total) than as being or leaning toward any other group. The report was produced by the American Sustainable Business Council.
What’s often missed amid the Chamber’s commotion about regulatory and tax “burdens” is the reason those measures exist in the first place: the benefits both to those paying their share and to society at large. A plurality (40 percent) of business owners said they would rather accept a 10 percent increase in energy costs than face the consequences of climate change. Only a quarter said they’d rather suffer the consequences of climate change.
Small businesses are widely recognized as the backbone of the economy, and with nearly nine out of 10 saying they worry that climate change could harm their business, it’s clear that the EPA’s action (and more) is needed. The top climate change concerns shared by small business owners included higher energy costs (53 percent), power outages due to stress on the power grid (48 percent), severe storms (41 percent), higher health care costs (37 percent) and higher food costs (35 percent). Other concerns included record-breaking hot and cold spells, a reduced fresh water supply, extreme drought, coastal flooding and more.
The verdict is in. Owners of businesses all shapes and sizes recognize the dangers of climate change and are willing – even eager – to contribute to efforts to protect the planet. Without a stable climate, there can be no stable economy. When the U.S. Chamber says otherwise, it’s speaking for a select few big-money companies that profit handsomely from the status quo. As this report shows, if the U.S. Chamber represents small businesses, it’s not doing it right.
Sam Jewler is the communications and research officer for Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch program.