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article imageUS Chamber of Commerce facing heat for stance on greenhouse gases

By Stephanie Dearing     Oct 2, 2009 in Environment
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently came under fire for saying climate change was a good thing, but after losing some very prominent members, the Chamber has been frantically attempting to ensure the public that it 'had it all wrong.'
On June 23, the Chamber submitted a petition petition opposing the Clean Air Act section that pertained to greenhouse gases. The Chamber asked for a hearing on the proposed Clean Air Act, being particularly concerned about greenhouse gases under section 202 of the Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed that six gases be labelled as air pollutants which endanger human health. Those gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. The Chamber was concerned that the environmental legislation will cause expensive and restrictive laws in the near future.The Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America says it represents more than three million businesses.
In arguing against the Act, the Chamber said that global warming was good for people. Regarding an increase in the average global temperature, the Chamber argued that a warmer temperature would be beneficial, and the EPA was overlooking the mitigation provided by technology. "... there is strong evidence that the impact of high temperatures and heat waves has lessened in the U. S. in recent decades as air conditioning and other physical and public health educational measures have been put in place."
Not only would fewer people die in the United States as well as the rest of the world, the Chamber also asserted that air quality would actually improve with an increase in temperatures. "Warming will also reduce the atmospheric concentrations of semi-volatile components of fine PM [particulate matter] ... Several important studies document fine PM air quality benefits from climate change."
Later in the long petition, the Chamber argued that global warming would allow more food to be grown, while enabling plants to "...better able to withstand drought conditions, among other effects... These effects of CO2 not only increase the yield on existing agricultural land, but also tend to expand the area suitable for agriculture. The direct effects of CO2 on food production and agriculture are, therefore, a major benefit to the public welfare."
Finally, the Chamber said "There is no industry, business, person, or animal in the United States that EPA will not eventually be challenged to regulate should it finalize this Proposed Endangerment Finding. After all, every living, breathing creature on land exhales carbon dioxide. It is hard to imagine another agency action in this Nation’s history with such far reaching implications."
These comments resulted in several businesses quitting the Chamber. On September 30, Nike announced its resignation from the Board of the Chamber because of disagreement over climate change. Toyota, on the other hand, has drawn criticism for being "two-faced," remaining a member of the Chamber in spite of its commitment to "sustainable mobility." Three energy companies, Exelon, PG&E and PNM also left the Chamber over the petition.
The Chamber's website states "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change." This new position was put forward on September 30th.
Although the Chamber had submitted the brief in June, it only publicly announced its opposition to the Clean Air Act in late September.
PG&E's CEO, Peter Darbee, said "We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored," Darbee wrote. "In our view, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another."
More about Chamber commerce, Climate change, Environmental protection agency
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