Colorado Focus Issue 4: You Must Speak Climate

Both True readers are overwhelmingly environmentalists and oil and gas supporters. That doesn’t mean everyone has the same take on climate – I know because I’ve been hearing a lot from you all – and I like it! Both True is written for all of you, whatever your stance on climate change – I love you and want you to be a part of this conversation.

Here’s the interesting thing: at Adamantine, our analysis focuses on the risks posed by public perception and prioritization of climate change. That means you can read this analysis, maintain your political identity, and still find that action is required.

I’ve received some constructive and accurate pushback from readers on my position that “nearly all environmental work has gotten consumed by the climate movement.” There is still significant work going on in habitat restoration, water quality, wetland health, and air quality in and around oil and gas. And often this work is being done by oil and gas companies.

While I agree, I would still like to make the case (in this last installment of the Colorado series) that climate is the environmental cause that poses the most risk to your company based on what we have learned here in Colorado. 

Both of these things are true:

  • In Colorado, the last election swept in Democrats to run the House, Senate, and governor’s office – and climate was a top tier priority for many of these candidates.
  • Colorado oil and gas companies that position to take their place in the state’s decarbonizing environmental and energy future will be positioned for success anywhere in North America.

The problem

When we at Adamantine put together our data-driven report on what other jurisdictions can learn from Colorado’s transition away from being an oil and gas supporting state, we were surprised at how much climate concern has increased across the country. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communications has put together a useful database where you can build your own fact sheet on climate opinion in your area. 

The figure below provides a snapshot of Coloradans’ attitudes toward fossil- and climate-related topics in 2019. A strong majority of Coloradans are now both concerned about climate and support climate-related action such as a carbon tax, regulating CO2, and holding companies accountable for their effects on the climate. 

From Yale Program on Climate Change. Copyright 2019 Yale. 

It matters because:

Your regulators, stakeholders, customers, communities, and shareholders are participating in this new climate-dominated conversation. In places like Colorado, you cannot talk about energy development or operation without addressing climate. If you don’t understand how to do this constructively and proactively, you’ll be on your heels.

The critical mistakes companies are making:

Focusing on the economics, property rights, and other (true!) facts about the importance of oil and gas development without participating proactively and addressing their role in carbon emissions and solving for a decarbonized energy future. 

Seize the day.   Successful companies will: 

  • Get fluent. Every conversation about energy development and operation has climate in it. You and your company will be most successful if you engage head on. You can gain this fluency by reading polls about climate opinion (subscribing to Yale’s email is a good first step) and expanding your sources of news to include climate-focused news sources.
  • Engage your coworkers. Take your fluency one step further by talking about climate internally anytime you’re thinking about stakeholders. You’ll de-bogeyman the topic and learn from each other.
  • Seek to understand. Your stakeholders hold a variety of opinions about climate and the future of energy and the environment. Get to know what the world looks like to them – before you even think about “educating”!

The climate conversation is happening with or without you – and it will affect your ability to build and operate. Getting comfortable in a climate conversation is a key component of mitigating social risk. 

I’d like to hear about the way your company talks about climate internally and externally. If this post was forwarded to you, you can subscribe to Both of These Things Are True here.

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