“Big Business” has been portrayed in history as intimidating and domineering in society over small business competitors, workers and politicians. In some ways that remains true. However, the larger truth is that big business is a paper tiger, easily intimidated. No segment of society knows this better than the Green climate alarmists, and they are intimidating corporate America gradually and to growing effect. Ultimately, such intimidation campaigns are misplaced and harmful.

Under pressure from groups like the Rainforest Action Network, the Hartford Insurance Company recently announced it is curtailing its investments in coal companies, which followed a similar divestment pledge from Liberty Mutual Insurance and AXIS Capital. Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment firm, also announced recently it would no longer make new coal investments nor invest in companies drilling for oil in the Arctic.

Hartford Insurance, for example, has completely bought into climate alarmism, even repeating the supposed connection between warming and greater frequency of storms and floods. There is no such connection, as CFACT explains.

Goldman Sachs’ divestment announcement, fortunately, did not go unanswered. The state of Alaska, with an economy heavily dependent on oil production, can also take its business elsewhere by excluding Goldman from other state business. This is something that Gov. Mike Dunleavy hinted would come.

The governor also pointed out that other investment firms could replace Goldman Sachs and that any loss in Alaskan oil production would hurt American workers and consumers.  Such divestment schemes also serve to help other oil producing nations that lack the environmental safeguards mandated in the U.S.  In fact, there are plenty of other takers for Arctic energy resources.

For climate alarmists, science, history and the facts on global temperature have not fit their computer models and thirty-year predictions of the earth’s demise. Accordingly, the public remains unconvinced of their claims of urgency which is one reason the Green New Deal will not be passed by Congress any time soon.  In fact, the only vote that occurred was when the U.S. Senate voted against it without a single vote in support (Democrats, including the chief sponsor of the GND, voted “present”).

While it’s true that some localized Green New Deals have been adopted in New York City, Los Angeles and other places, the negative cost impact to the public, including from energy rationing, is postponed for several years. That way, few politicians of today will face any backlash. Carbon neutral climate goals, for example, will take effect in a dozen years or decades from now, long after most present-day politicians are retired or dead.

The point here is that without real public buy-in, climate extremist groups have resorted to threats, boycotts and intimidation of high profile companies. This as another means to force transformation away from fossil fuels toward a carbon-free nirvana that is wholly unrealistic and unwarranted. Still, big business is always about the bottom line, and bad publicity from a social media campaign can reap a devastating financial effect – something few corporate CEOs would risk, whether or not they agree with climate alarmism.

The corporate campaigns by alarmist groups for divestment of fossil fuels, if successful, would be harmful to workers and the U.S. economy as a whole – without the concomitant environmental benefits. If the alarmist camp were serious, they would campaign for divestment in countries that care nothing for the environment or carbon emissions, starting with China and Russia.

Many mega U.S.-based corporations such as Amazon and Apple, whose websites tout their environmentalism, are huge investors in China because they profit handsomely. They are not seriously pressuring China to care about the climate, nor are they divesting from that dictatorial country.  China releases more carbon than the U.S. and Europe combined, but don’t count on green groups or multi-national corporations to attempt any redress.  This not-so-mild inconsistency is less about caring for the environment and global temperature and more about a Green group agenda of anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism.

Demands for corporate divestment are an attack on freedom of choice and the economic prosperity we enjoy as Americans thanks to affordable energy. If companies are convinced it is in their interest (financial or PR-wise) to have climate goals and more renewable energy sources, that’s their choice. Intimidation and boycotts from climate alarmist groups are otherwise hypocritical, counterproductive and ultimately an assault on the liberties we enjoy as Americans.


  • Peter Murphy, a CFACT analyst, has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the New York Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.