Robert Samuelson is very skeptical about Larry Fink’s interest in or ability to do something to address climate change.
To be sure, none of this precludes the possibility that companies may make significant advances involving climate change — whether to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to improve energy efficiency. But there are two overriding realities to keep in mind when discussing the prospects for Fink’s framework.
First — and foremost — combating global warming is mainly a governmental problem and can’t conceivably be accomplished without acknowledging that. Private firms, whether electric utilities or vehicle manufacturers, may be the instruments to attack climate change, but they will respond to the policies and incentives created by the political process.
The trouble, of course, is that the policies that would mobilize the private sector against climate change are highly unpopular for obvious reasons. One approach involves very high taxes on fossil fuels, the source of most greenhouse gases. This would presumably push consumers toward electric cars, and solar and wind power.
People want to be known as ethical investors. So BlackRock is devising new investment portfolios that advertise “values.” Coal companies are being eliminated, for example. This is more about marketing than energy policy.
Second, the forecasting that Fink advocates as a way for companies to anticipate the future is highly desirable — but almost impossible to achieve in the real world. We know too little about too many things. Knowledge is too specialized for most of us to acquire much of it.