My colleague Sarah Hunt pointed out yesterday that public opinion is more supportive of government action against greenhouse gas emissions than conservatives might like to believe. While one might put that in the basket of “Things I Already Know,” another opinion survey from last spring is a bit more interesting. To wit, even oil and gas insiders have been persuaded of the seriousness of climate change risks and the need for government to act.
Warren Business Consulting surveyed 474 of these corporate actors about their opinions on climate change. Their findings?
The important take-away, from my perspective, is that the industry that is among those most affected by government policy to address climate change is populated by actors who believe that climate change is real, industrial emissions are an important driver, the risks are significant, and the best means of addressing those risks is with a carbon tax. Given that they have no obvious reason to want to believe any of those things, motivated cognition is an unlikely explanation for those beliefs.
Those private beliefs are reflected in the public positions taken by the major oil companies. Carbon taxes are explicitly embraced by ExxonMobil, BP, and Hess (for good reason), while Chevron, Shell and Total all express strong public support for public policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, the fact that people working for or with oil companies believe that climate change is real and carbon pricing is the best answer doesn’t settle the debate on those matters. But if carbon taxes were the existential economic threat claimed by many on the Right, one would expect that the main targets of that tax would be the first say so (at least in private).