Monday, February 04, 2008


Imagine my surprise to see this Letter from the Editor in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review:

Our planet is warming. We're making that happen. The effects will be global, generally bad, and in some ways catastrophic. These are incontrovertible facts.

I see. I never saw HBR as being in the business of incontrovertible facts, particularly with respect to science. I guess I wasn't reading it right.

It's interesting to look back through old issues of HBR and see that this esteemed publication is still just a flavor-of-the-month, quick-read, fad-driven mag like any other. Most of its articles have had no lasting value, and many have totally missed the mark when you look at them again with the benefit of today's knowledge of then-future trends and events.

Further down the page, I see where he's going with this.

While doing nothing about climate change puts businesses and populations in great peril, there are fortunes to be made and fortunes to be saved by those who take steps to prevent and mitigate it.

At least that appeals to profit motive (ours and his), the genius of America and the root of its success. That's better than what I'm hearing from some of the '08 political campaigns, that we should address global warming for the good of the world even if it cools the US economy. That's just stupid. If we can create in global warming a new market for the US economy, then now you've got my attention.

I'm uncomfortable with the "war against global warming" language that I'm hearing. We're at war against real enemies, but some would have me refocus on a feel-good war against a phantom enemy. And since those making the argument don't trust business to solve the problem, that leaves only Big Government to do the job.

Ultimately, you will create the theory and practice of business's response to climate change as you try, with respect to this enormous and complex challenge, to do what good business leaders do: Be the best leaders you can, see the future and plan for it, solve tough problems, and invest your resources in what really works.

And what would that be, perchance? That's a long sentence that says nothing. What works is spending your money on people, stuff, and services. Maybe I'm too shortsighted, too practical, or unable to think outside the box, but I don't see what Mr. Businessman can and should do with this year's budget to take advantage of the fact that temperatures have been trending up on planet earth. Do you?


Dude said...

I'm a science geek and I'm just not sold on the global warming thing. There is plenty of science "proving" it is happening, but most of the evidence involves simplistic correlations between atmospheric carbon dioxide and heat retention. I believe the biosphere is a vastly more complex system than can even be modeled by science at this time. The same white coats who are positive that we will be extinct in 300 years have no way to determine if it's going to rain over spring break. Besides, we have burned through half the oil already. Give it another 200 years and you won't need any treaties to keep humanity from burning fossil fuels. We are much more at risk from rogue nuclear states than even the most dire global climate change.

Tom said...

You make a great "flavor of the month" comparison. We would have fewer Chicken Little stories if people were held responsible for their prior Chicken Little stories.

But since there is no such penalty, you might as well be trendy where at least you will get noticed by all the right people.

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