Old-Think Gradually Bleeds out of Climate Debates

Covering business and climate change often reminds me of the bird that used to sit on a tree branch outside my parents' house and fly into a window. A moment of freedom punctuated by a thud. Whee! Thud. Every day, all summer long.

Whee!: Global companies want to stave off potential unpleasantness in the years ahead, from increased competition for fewer resources and from meteorological disruptions. To cite only one articulation of this trend, the World Economic Forum last week extolled the potential of the "circular economy," a trillion dollar opportunity (it says) to decouple economic growth from resource use, resulting in less waste of materials, energy and labor. "Linear consumption" -- which sounds like a euphemism for traditional economic growth -- "is reaching its limits,"WEF authors write .

Thud: The environmental wars of the 1970s created a business-v.-treehugger storyline that's still tragically too common in U.S. public life, and probably elsewhere, too.

DuPont in 1989 coined the phrase "corporate environmentalism," which these days is about as common as using energy or having employees. Yet baby boomers and even Gen X-ers still too poisoned by old-think to embrace big business's current (rhetorical) leadership in climate affairs.

News articles, conference panels and other things that posit business and environment as mutually exclusive still send my palm flying to my forehead with the force of a bird flying into a window.

So it's noteworthy when non-usual suspects speak up, as Bloomberg View's Barry Ritholtz did today. In a nutshell: Yes, it's a problem, and nobody's going to do much about it with energy so cheap.

Once in a while, the bird gets through the window to open sky.

Analysis and commentary on The Grid are the views of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

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