FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Janus-Faced on Climate Change: Microsoft’s Carbon Vision

Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“This is a bold bet – a moonshot – for Microsoft.”  So claimed Brad Smith, Microsoft President, in a Thursday announcement painting a picture of a company that intends to be carbon negative by 2030.  “And,” Smith continued, “it will need to be a moonshot for the world.”  That vision entails the removal of more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits.  By 2050, the company intends removing from the environment all carbon the company has emitted since its founding in 1975.

The feeling that a public relations unit has scoured the entire company and briefed its members is palpable.  Smith speaks of how “real progress requires real transparency”, meaning that Microsoft “will continue to disclose the carbon footprint of our services and solutions.”  The company has also committed to the United Nations’ 1.5-degree Business Ambition Pledge.

Chief executive Satya Nadella was also saying all the right things at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.  “If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that technology built without these principles can do more harm than good.”  Climate change was the bogeyman whose predations had to be arrested.  “We must begin to offset the damaging effects of climate change”; were global temperatures to continue their inexorable rise, “the results will be devastating.”

Some outlined measures include the extensive use of electric vehicles, the establishment of a $1 billion fund financing carbon reduction, capturing and removal technologies over the course of four years.  Smith admits that, “Saving our planet’s carbon issues will require technology that does not exist today.”  One of the companies hoping to profit from this crystal ball gazing is the carbon capture pioneer Carbon Engineering, whose CEO, Steve Oldham, is confident.  The direct air capture plant, however, is still under construction, and cautionary notes have been sounded by the likes of Sue Reid, vice president of climate and energy at Ceres, a US-based non-profit.  Will the maths add up?

For all that, this was moving stuff.  Some members of Congress certainly enjoyed it, notably those on the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.  “The scope and scale of this proposal is exactly the kind of bold action we need from the business community,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, and Rep.  Mike Braun, Republican from Indiana, in a statement.  “Addressing the challenge of our changing climate will require all of us to work together – federal, state and local governments, the private sector, and individuals.”  Shades of old Charles E. Wilson here: What’s good for Microsoft seems to be good for the United States.

But much of this should not detract from the obvious point: Microsoft is happy to have a bit each way when it comes to how it finances its green image.  The waters it bathes in are not always ecologically sound.  While the company positions itself high on the soapbox of environmental purity, it is still a corporation governed by that traditional mix of predatory instinct and innate opportunism.  In this, it shares a streak with Facebook and Google, two other entities who exude self-confidence in the illusion that they are principled, morals at the ready.

This point was made last year when it was revealed that all three companies sponsored LibertyCon, the annual conference for the Students for Liberty, a libertarian group.  Both Microsoft and Facebook forked out $10,000 each as gold sponsors; Google went a grade better with $25,000, making the platinum grade.

This clutch of sponsors was not, in of itself, odd.  But the three companies found themselves sharing a crowded platform with outfits distinctly against the science of climate change, showing how vast open tents can get rather muddy on the inside.  One of those present was the CO2 Coalition, a group celebrating the virtues of carbon, and feels that it has been unduly demonised.  Carbon, it lauds, “is essential for life.”  Available at the conference was a brochure from its good offices extolling the merits of greater quantities of carbon dioxide, explaining how that would improve “our lives and our planet Earth”.

One of its members, retired statistics professor Caleb Rossiter, spoke at the gathering by insisting that, “There has been no increase in storms, in intensity or frequency.  The data don’t show a worrisome trend.”

The event prompted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Maine Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree, to pen an open letter to the CEOs.  “We were deeply disappointed to see that your companies were high-level sponsors of a conference this month in Washington, D.C., known as LibertyCon, that included a session denying established science on climate change.”

The Congresswomen, suitably exercised by the whole matter, suggested that past initiatives to tackle the carbon footprint by the big three should not prove a distraction.  “The example you have set promoting sustainability and evidence-based science is compromised by your implicit support of the session.”

When asked to comment on the matter by Fortune magazine, a Google spokesperson paraded the company’s sustainability credentials.  “Since 2007, we have operated as a carbon neutral company and in 2017, we reached 100% renewable energy for our global operations.”  Microsoft preferred a stony silence.   Business is simply cold hearted business.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

July 08, 2020
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
Parth M.N.
Back to School in Rural India: Digital Divide to Digital Partition
Ed Sanders
The Burning of Newgate Prison: a Glyph
July 06, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Foreign Election Interference: Who is to Blame?
JoAnn Wypijewski
On Disposability and Rebellion: Insights From a Rank-and-File Insurgency
Marshall Auerback – Jan Frel
There’s a Hidden Economic Trendline That is Shattering the Global Trade System
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Just and Talented Government for Our Hazardous Age
Manuel García, Jr.
Biosphere Warming in Numbers
Ron Jacobs
Kidnapping Kids: As American as the Fourth of July
Tasha Jones
Pyramids. Plantations. Projects. Penitentiaries
Binoy Kampmark
Criminalising Journalism: Australia’s National Security Craze
Eve Ottenberg
Re-Organizing Labor
Mike Garrity
How We Stopped Trump From Trashing a Critical Montana Roadless Area in Grizzly Habitat
Nino Pagliccia
The Meaning of the 1811 Independence for Today’s Venezuela
Michael Galant
We Need a Global Green New Deal
Jill Richardson
Learning Not to Look Away
Marshall Sahlins
Donald Trump at 130,000 and Rising
Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail