Chamber backtracks on climate change as resignations mount

Athletic footwear maker Nike has resigned from its position on the board of the US Chamber of Commerce, the latest sign that a major rift has formed within the US's preeminent business group over climate change legislation expected this fall.

According to The Hill, the Oregon-based shoe maker cited "differences with the business group on climate change" as the reason for its departure from the board. The company will remain a member of the chamber.

Nike is the latest and most high-profile company to publicly distance itself from the Chamber of Commerce, which has taken an active stance against proposed climate-change legislation.

Last week, two major utilities, the Public Service Company of New Mexico and California's Pacific Gas and Electric, left the chamber. PG&E said it was leaving because of the chamber's "extreme" position on climate change, the Associated Press reported.

"At the heart of the ongoing clash with utilities is a statement from the Chamber of Commerce which asked that the science of global warming be put on 'trial,'" the report stated.

The climate change debate "has exposed deep rifts within the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other business lobbies, with companies leaving their trade organizations almost daily in disputes over climate change legislation," reports the New York Times.

Nike's move "follows pressure by some Nike shareholders for the company to leave the chamber, which recently challenged a new initiative by the Environmental Protection Agency to track emissions of heat-trapping gasses like carbon dioxide," The Portland Oregonian reports.

Oregon-based Nike has been working hard in recent years to rehabilitate its image after accusations surfaced in the 1990s that the company was contracting with manufacturers in Asia who had poor records of adhering to labor laws.

The company has worked to counter the image that shoe-making is an environmentally harmful activity. It has launched a number of initiatives to make its business more environment-neutral, including projects to recycle running shoes.

"Nike believes US businesses must advocate for aggressive climate change legislation and that the United States needs to move rapidly into a sustainable economy to remain competitive and ensure continued economic growth," the company said in a statement released Wednesday.


Evidence is mounting that pressure from its member companies is beginning to have an effect of the chamber's position on climate change. "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change," chamber CEO Tom Donohue said in a blog posting Tuesday.

“We’ve never questioned the science behind global warming,” spokesman Eric Wohlsclegel told the New York Times Tuesday.

"This is a blatant falsehood, by any definition," retorted Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress. "Just last month, the Chamber’s Senior Vice President, William Kovacs, called for the 'Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century' to put 'the science of climate change on trial.' The chamber, dominated by pollution-industry skeptics such as Don Blankenship, Harry Alford, and Fred Palmer, has questioned climate science since at least 1992."