Starting to tackle climate change

That's not necessarily a wise decision. According to a new study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 55 percent of registered voters say they will consider candidates' views on global warming. But with such a dearth of leadership on environmental issues from would-be office
holders, who's stepping into the vacuum?

Corporate America. And that's good news for the planet.

While the Republican National Convention was revving up, for example, General Electric announced it had teamed up with renewable energy firm Urban
Green Energy to produce a gadget that sounds like it's straight out of science fiction -- a wind-powered electric vehicle charger.

The Sanya Skypump can recharge an electric car's batteries without connecting to the power grid. The two firms plan to install stations at shopping malls and universities across Australia and the United States later this year.

That's just one example of the kind of innovation coming out of the business world. Corporate America is warming to the idea that profitability and
environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive. The world will not be able to stave off the environmental calamities threatening our planet --like climate change -- without a strong commitment from America's business community. Fortunately, businesses have an incentive to make that

The threat climate change poses to our way of life is real. This July was the hottest ever recorded in the continental United States, and new data from NASA all but proves that man-made climate change is to blame for recent heat waves around the world. Between 1980 and 2009, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States increased 19 percent. Without emissions reductions, the agency says, extreme heat waves will become increasingly common in this country.

Elevated temperatures don't just damage the environment -- they have an adverse effect on the economy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that the severe drought that afflicted the Midwest this summer will reduce average corn yields to their lowest levels in 17 years. As a result, corn prices could soon rise to $8.90 per bushel, up from just $5 a bushel in June.

The corn crisis could drive up the cost of food -- and even lead to shortages. Both farmers and consumers could pay dearly.

In mid-August, Obama and Romney both toured cornfields, but they said very little about steps we should take to keep something like this from happening again.

While the candidates dither, many U.S. and global companies are taking concerted action to go green -- a critical step in preventing future climate
disasters. Procter & Gamble, Ford, and Coca-Cola have all instituted rigorous carbon footprint targets. Best Buy has set company-wide goals to reduce its carbon emissions in North America by 20 percent over the next few years.

Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Tesla are all increasing production rates for cars powered partially or entirely by electricity. Ford launched the Focus Electric, which gets the equivalent of 105 miles per gallon -- making it the most fuel efficient vehicle in the United States at the time of launch. And General Motors is working on new technology that could power an electric car for up to 200 miles on a single charge.

Many firms have also started requiring their suppliers to develop and deliver products that meet aggressive environmental standards. Levi's, for instance, has committed to becoming carbon neutral and using renewable energy exclusively throughout its supply chain.

Wal-Mart's commitment to sustainability may come as a bit of a surprise, but 75 percent of its California stores now use solar power to run their operations.

These aren't just feel-good stories. Because of their sheer size, corporate behemoths can have a sizeable positive impact by adopting sustainable
practices. Wal-Mart, for instance, has more than 10,000 stores worldwide. Imagine the potential reduction in greenhouse gases if they all moved to
low-emission power sources.

It's encouraging to see corporations recognize that they have not just a moral obligation to sustain the planet, but an economic incentive, too. While our politicians may treat conservation as a punching bag or punchline -- if they mention it at all -- businesses may emerge as our real environmental leaders.

Wheaton is the chief marketing officer at Wunderman, an advertisingand consulting company.

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