Even Google makes mistakes. The world leader in search recently announced it had made one in financially supporting a political group that is opposed to the US taking action on climate change. Google had been supporting one of the group’s campaigns focused on an issue unrelated to climate change.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt summarized the situation, “The people who oppose it are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council is the group that Google has decided not to renew membership with at the end of the year. ALEC has toyed with the idea of an interstate research council to study potential benefits of climate change. Such a view would be very contrary to what most scientific research has found, such as devastation of natural habitats for many forms of life and the relocation of human settlements located in coastal areas. ALEC has also been involved in attempts to repeal renewable energy mandates for states.
ALEC’s chief executive officer said, “It is unfortunate to learn Google has ended its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council as a result of public pressure from left-leaning individuals and organizations who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial.”
It’s sort of humorous that in its response, ALEC managed to blame ‘left-leaning individuals’ as if there are a number of fragmented leftist citizens that caused a huge corporation like Google with over 10,000 employees to sever its relationship with a conservative lobbying group that tries to deny climate change. Also, the statement says the end of the Google funding was due to organizations that confuse free market policy perspective with climate change denial, but climate change is primarily about science, not economic policy.
Of course, it has been well-documented that Google actively invests in renewable energy development. In fact, Google has publicly stated that it wants to eventually operate on 100% renewable energy, so it makes no sense for there to be any tie to a lobbying group that is very unaligned with its values.
Google has invested in over 15 renewable energy projects, operates data centers that utilize clean energy, and has some solar power at its Mountain View headquarters. About $1.5 billion dollars has been invested by Google so far in renewable energy projects.
In 2011, a group of Google science communication fellows also noticed their employer had been supportive of a politician who was (like ALEC) a climate change denier, “Given Google’s commitment to educating the public about climate change, why would the company align its political efforts with [Senator James] Inhofe? In responding to criticism, a Google spokesperson acknowledged “while we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.”
They signed and sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
Apparently, ALEC and Inhofe have some kind of relationship, because he is listed on the group’s website under Federal Relations Initiatives. According to Slate, ALEC has also received funding from the Koch brothers, which is hardly the company Google would probably like to be keeping, at least in a political sense.
Though this is a separate situation, it might be worth mentioning that Eric Schmidt has used his Google money to fund research in ocean conservation at the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Some of that research is focused on ocean acidification, which is linked with human-made atmospheric CO2 levels, “On the heels of the successful Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE aims to spur global innovators to develop accurate and affordable ocean pH sensors that will ultimately transform our understanding of ocean acidification, one of the gravest problems associated with the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).”
So, it somehow seems fitting that Schmidt is the one who made the statement about protecting our world for future generations from the effects of climate change.
Image Credit: Jijithecat, Wiki Commons