I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read today that the SEC has now said that companies have an obligation to tell investors of any risks — or benefits, for that matter — that climate change poses to their business. Specifically:
The S.E.C., on a party-line 3-2 vote, issued “interpretive guidance” to help companies decide when and whether to disclose matters related to climate change. The commission said that companies could be helped or hurt by climate-related lawsuits, business opportunities or legislation and should promptly disclose such potential impacts. Banks or insurance companies that invest in coastal property that could be affected by storms or rising seas, for example, should disclose such risks, the agency said.
For goodness sake, there is not a company that I can think of that won’t feel an impact one way or the other when the climate goes nuts. You have a plant in a hurricane zone? Big trouble. You don’t but your main competitor does? Big boon. Neither you nor your competitors have plants there, but your main customer does? Mucho big trouble. You run a tiny clothing store, and you’ve made a good living selling parkas and ski clothes? The snow melts too soon, and Chapter 11,. here you come.
I’m not trying to be a doomsday predictor, hollering Repent, repent before it’s too late. But it you accept that the climate is changing, then you must accept that every single company must list how different scenarios would affect its business. Otherwise, this is another exercise in futility.
But all that would be worth a sad smile or a single tear. What has me ready to either guffaw or sob was that, after proposing the new disclusres, Mary L. Schapiro gave the boilerplate disclaimer:
“we are not opining on whether the world’s climate is changing; at what pace it might be changing; or due to what causes. Nothing that the commission does today should be construed as weighing in on those topics.”
Let me get this straight: We are not saying that the climate is changing, but we are saying that you’d better disclose how you will be affected by this change that we are not claiming is happening?
Ain’t Washington rhetoric grand?
Posts like this are why Claudia Deutsch’s The Bottom Line blog on True/Slant regularly makes my day. It can be far too easy by the end of a work week of reading absurd news stories to begin to feel alone: Doesn’t anyone else find this ridiculous? Why aren’t the media pundits covering this story? Claudia reassures me on both counts.