Chamber of Commerce Losing Members

The United States Chamber of Commerce is losing members fast due to divisive views on climate change, an issue businesses have traditionally ignored.

In an inspiring turn of events, several businesses have dropped membership, citing discontent with the Chamber's stance against federal regulations that would curb carbon emissions. The Chamber does support incentives for clean energy, but still refuses to support any kind of legal requirement or regulation against spewing greenhouse gas.

As being green becomes a more and more prominent political issue, it is also an issue of fashion and public support. Consumers are starting to look at companies' political and environmental records before they buy. (See my post on GoodGuide.) Nike, for example, dropped off the Chamber's board issuing a statement that explicitly points to environmental policy as a key issue for the shoe and active wear company. Although Nike will remain a member in order to keep a pro-environment voice in the Chamber, the company resigned from the board as a statement that it supports climate change legislation. Like Nike, others that have left the Chamber say their views are no longer being correctly voiced, and they feel misrepresented.

The most recent drop-out is Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear plant operator. In a now widely distributed statement, Exelon chairman and chief executive John Rowe reflected a pragmatic point of view. "The carbon-based free lunch is over," Rowe said.

Many businesses see the writing on the wall and wish to be a part of crafting new legislation, as opposed to passively waiting for it to descend upon them. Others are actively fighting any kind of federal regulation, and are even going so far as to deny climate change is real. Grist posted a story last August about the Chamber's call for a "Scopes Monkey Trial" on climate change, in which the EPA would be forced to defend the science behind climate change before it could regulate emissions.

It is astounding that climate change naysayers still exist, even as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change works on its fifth assessment report, and world leaders from across the globe prepare to convene in Copenhagen to create a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Last weekend's Tavis Smiley Show from Public Radio International featured, among others, an interview with Congressman Marsha Blackburn about the proposed climate change bill in the Senate (Blackburn prefers to be called "congressman" as opposed to "congresswoman.") When Smiley asked Blackburn if she even believes climate change is real, she replied that the people of Tennessee see climate change in their own backyards, four times a year, winter, spring, summer and fall. Smiley was perhaps too polite to point out that what Blackburn was referring to is season change.

Despite the prominence of voices like Blackburn's, it does seem to be a waning prominence, and one undermined further by news of major businesses dropping out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to speak up for climate change legislation.