As a PR firm that works with several large companies in the coal, utility and alternative energy industry, we are continuously monitoring the proposed climate change legislation that is before the U.S. Senate. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the greenhouse gas bill and now it’s poised for debate in the Senate. While politicians are wrestling with the exact version of this piece of legislation, American opinions are divided on the topic of climate change which makes it more important than ever that we recognize trends so that we can make appropriate recommendations to our clients.
In last week’s Pew Research Center for People & the Press survey that consisted of 1,500 adults, the number of people that say there is strong scientific evidence that the earth has gotten warmer over the past few decades is down to 57 percent from 71 percent in April of last year, as reported by the Associated Press. Toward that end, only 36 percent of participants said they believe human activities – e.g. emissions from power plants, factories and automobiles – are the chief cause for temperature increases. This is down from 46 percent from last year’s poll. These are still, of course, very significant numbers and shows just how divided we are.
We are following the ongoing debate for several reasons, as it will potentially impact our clients’ from several standpoints – e.g. increased capital and operation expenditures, brand image and more. It also has the potential to negatively impact household incomes of American families. For example, a family of four could possibly fork out an extra $1,870 in 2020 because of climate change measures (source: Heritage Foundation cost projections regarding the U.S. House version of the bill).
It also does not help calm fears when Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said before Congress last week that the U.S. House greenhouse gas bill will slow economic growth in the next few decades and cause “significant” job losses in the fossil fuel industry. On the other side of the issue, there are a large number who predict negative economic consequences if climate change legislation is not passed and it is essential that we know where the debate is headed so that our clients are positioned in the most favorable way possible regardless of the outcome.
These reports and comments serve as the catalyst for increased questions from our clients’ customers, employees and key audiences. It requires our agency to develop a wide range of strategies and tactics to counter misinformation and uncertainty for or against the bill. Whether it’s developing talking points for meetings, newsletter articles, letters to the editor, opinion editorials or more, the agency is constantly monitoring the debate and addressing issues as it pertains to the proposed legislation.
In closing, the touted benefits of this bill are creating plenty of attention and concern among executives and the general public. Even if Congress fails to get the bill passed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly poised to regulate emissions – per the carbon emissions endangerment finding that was released earlier this year. This wrinkle opens up a whole new can of worms, which we’ll discuss next time.