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The combustion of fossil fuels is no longer understandable as only a danger to nature. It’s now been increasingly recognized as an equal danger to the economy. This double jeopardy puts all Montanans at risk twice over, and the world of business and industry has increasingly added its own voice urging political action.

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change is a group of 415 investment firms managing combined assets worth more than twice the size of the entire Chinese economy. In December of 2018, recognizing risk to these assets, this group urged that political elites must now 1. quit reliance on thermal coal, 2. stop subsidizing all fossil fuels and 3. get on with putting a price on carbon.

Taking these three steps one step further, this group also pressed for 4. corporations to come clean on reporting their climate risks.

Try as they might, political elites can’t dismiss this prominent group as just a bunch of socialists or environmental extremists. Nor can political elites so dismiss Barron’s, a major financial weekly. On June 1 of this year, under a headline proclaiming that “Climate Change Risk is Chronic and Acute,” Barron’s reported that “We can no longer talk about global warming as a niche issue that affects only certain industries.”

Articles stressing the increasing danger from combustion of fossil fuels have now appeared in American Banker magazine as well as Sierra Magazine, in The Economist as well as The Ecologist, in warnings from the Financial Times as well as Trout Unlimited, and from Business Week as well as the Montana and National Wildlife Federations.

World Finance magazine has pointed out that “It is becoming more and more apparent that the developing threat of climate change is not simply damaging the earth’s natural ecosystem, but is also harming the world economy.”

The Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and San Franscisco have warned that climate change is a threat to the U.S. economy. The headline over an April 4 2019 Fortune magazine report on climate risk said “Central Bankers Are The World’s Newest Climate Activists.”

Underscoring the economy’s exposure to climate risks, a leading insurance company’s top executive has even said that, at some point, “the world is uninsurable.”

All in all, there’s escalating concern that the consequences of firing up the fossil fuels are, now, already, forcing us to a point of no return, and increasing conviction that prevention has a friendlier price tag than anything we’d be forced to spend in hope of cure.

We increasingly agree with 16-year-old Greta Thunberg’s observation that too many political elites are “acting like children.” It doesn’t have to be that way. The recent surge of concern for the economy and the environment at the same time, and for the same reason, may yet challenge political elites to find maturity enough to tell it like it is. Is that too much to ask?

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Jeff Smith, John Woodland and Carla Abrams are co-chairs of 350 Montana. Lance Olsen runs a listserv on climate and related issues. 

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