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QEDaily: The Bottom Line on Global Warming

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

The big news today is about a new report that projects what climate change will mean for different parts of the country. Rebecca Leber breaks it down for QED—with numbers and some colorful, if depressing, graphs.

My Mom and Dad live in Florida. I’m thinking maybe it’s time they sell the house.

The interesting question now is what kind of reaction the report will provoke—not among the general public, although that’s important, but among the men and women who run American businesses. On the one hand, it’s not like corporate America has been indifferent to climate change. Plenty of executives talk about the problem. The best have actually pushed their companies to adopt green practices. But the private sector isn’t going to solve this problem on its own.

It’s going to take government action—here and abroad. That won’t happen if politicians don’t feel more pressure, and the pressure can’t simply come from the usual environmental advocates. That’s why the report’s primary audience is in the business community. It’s called “Risky Business.” The hope is that, sufficiently scared by what climate change will do to future profits, corporate leaders will insist that government take action.

Could it happen? It seems hard to imagine. A comprehensive, effective response to climate change would necessarily include more government and more regulation. Corporate America hates those things. For much of the postwar era, the U.S. had a relatively enlightened business establishment—one that liked to think of itself as a steward of the public good. But that establishment doesn’t really exist anymore. (The classic account of its demise is The Paradox of American Democracy, by my colleague John Judis.) And if it’s easy to get overly nostalgic about that era—yes, they cared about profits back then—it sure seems like business leaders today are more focused on themselves, their firms, and the short term than they were before.

There are exceptions. As Rebecca notes, the reinsurance industry sees climate change as a direct threat to its bottom line. So do a few others. The report’s backers include Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson, and other figures that ought to have credibility among conservative business leaders. Count me skeptical that the effort will work, but hopeful that I’m wrong.

Worth reading:

WORK AND FAMILY: It’s not just about the kids. Women may be dropping out of the workforce to take care of ailing elders. (Dionne Searcey in the New York Times)

HEALTH CARE: Everybody thinks the prices of medical services should be more transparent. OK, maybe not everybody. (Jason Millman in Wonkblog)

CLIMATE: The Supreme Court mostly reaffirmed the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon. (Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect)

IMMIGRATION: Ross Douthat gave a conservative perspective on the border crisis Sunday. Greg Sargent offered a liberal take on Monday. This is what a civil, interesting debate sounds like.

Statistic that says a whole lot: Of the ten highest paid professions, nine are physicians. Yes, that should tell you something about why health care spending in the U.S. is so high. Via Sarah Kliff at Vox.

Policy stories we will be watching: No policy stories jump out, but we’re pretty curious to see how this run-off election in Mississippi turns out.

Now at QED: Danny Vinik pleads with the future Democratic presidential nominee not to repeat one of Obama’s biggest mistakes: Promising not to raise taxes on the middle class. And don’t miss Brian Beutler, writing for the New Republic home page, on whether Benghazism is now a permanent condition of American politics.