Tom Steyer wants to ‘penalize people’ who add to ‘climate risk’

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By Yaël Ossowski |

Speaking in New York City last week, Wall Street billionaire Tom Steyer laid clear his vision for penalizing people whose actions may contribute to climate change.

“We need to reward people whose behavior reduces climate risk and penalize people who add to it,” said Steyer “If we can get this right, I think there’s no doubt that our economy is going to continue to do very well.”

He was joined by several wealthy businessmen — such as Michael Bloomberg and former bankers and government officials Hank Paulson and Robert Reich— to unveil a report from Risky Business, an economic analysis of the financial impact to be caused by climate change.

A Wall Street baron, Steyer’s words are not to be taken lightly. Deemed the ‘liberal answer to the Koch Brothers, he’s one of the richest businessman in the United States and played a key part in raising millions of dollars to elect Barack Obama in 2008 once Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination.

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He met with the president this week to discuss what the White House could do to tackle climate change, and how “insurance industry’s role in helping American communities prepare for extreme weather and other impacts of climate change,” according to Reuters.

That points to a plan to allow insurance companies to begin assessing for “climate risk” in certain industries, a more market-focused approach to discourage industries from emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Some of the people who may be “penalized” for adding to climate risks, however, are workers in plants and factories all over the rust belt of the United States. While they recognize the need to mitigate the effects of climate change, some believe this shouldn’t come to the detriment of industries and traditional blue-collar workers.

“It is a fact that global warming threatens our planet. Scientists are as certain of this as they are of the dangers of smoking or riding in a car without a seatbelt,” said Tony Montana, spokesman for the local United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh. “Declaring “war” on entire industries, such as coal, oil, or natural gas, however, is not the answer. These industries created and supported a way of life for workers and their communities for generations.”

“The answer to the threat of global warming is to focus on building a sustainable energy policy that includes all options, including the clean usage of fossil fuels in addition to hydroelectric, wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” added Montana. “As these industries and technologies develop, the USW is working to make sure that there will be a strong demand for our union’s core products such as steel, concrete, glass and rubber.”

If the idea of penalizing carbon emitters eventually makes it to the political process, Steyer has assured he will have allies in the fight.

NextGen Climate Action, a multi-million dollar political action committee funded entirely by Steyer, has already beefed up the Democratic Senate Majority PAC with more than $5 million in preparation for next year’s election to guarantee the issue of climate change remains a political issue in many key states. Key union groups have similarly received funding by Steyer.

The American Federation of County, State, & Municipal Employees, one of the largest unions in the U.S., has already received $10,000 from Steyer’s PAC in 2014, according to documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

A representative from AFCSME refused to speak to for this report.

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