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New CDL Report: Chamber of Obstruction

Image Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Chamber of Obstruction: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Shifting Discourses on Climate Change, 1989-2009

By Cole Triedman, with support from Profs. Rachel Wetts & Timmons Roberts

A new CDL report examines key patterns of climate affirmation, uncertainty, denial and delay from several dozen historical U.S. Chamber of Commerce documents spanning the 1989-2009 period. The report finds that:

  • After acknowledging potential adverse climate impacts predicted by climate science in 1989, the Chamber shifted to discourses of climate uncertainty and denial.

  • After a decade of articulating a fundamental conflict between climate action and economic prosperity, the Chamber began suggesting that a long- term, non-transformative strategy for climate progress could combine formerly competing objectives.

  • After delaying addressing whether or not climate change was a solvable challenge, the Chamber introduced 'surrender' discourses that discredited the possibility of remedying climate change.

  • The Chamber framed non-transformative visions for climate governance when significant opportunities for climate progress were absent, while directly discrediting those policies and regulatory action when opportunities were present.

  • Bill Kovacs pushed the Chamber to more extreme and dramatic positions on climate change.

The findings suggest that, while the U.S. Chamber in 2019 adopted an "inaction is not an option" climate message and support for market-based climate policies, the shifts should be viewed with a heightened level of scrutiny.

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