University of Toronto Press has published Quest Social Sciences Tutor Dr. Kaija Belfry Munroe’s book, Business in a Changing Climate: Explaining Industry Support for Carbon Pricing. The publication is the first book to ask major pollution emitting industries in Canada what their preferences are with respect to climate change. Kaija shared some insight about her book.
Q: Congratulations on the publication of your new book! What questions did you start with when you began your research?
KM: My initial question was why Canada had done so little when it came to climate change. My bias as a political scientist was that it must be a business/government relations problem. The 2008 National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy released a report calling for carbon pricing. The media immediately slammed the report calling it a carbon tax, and Stephen Harper’s government sharply denounced it. However, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers came out widely in favor of carbon pricing. My question then changed to why they made that decision and how do businesses decide what to lobby for with the government.
Q: What was your research background, and did this new question require different methodological tools?
KM: I came from a political science background and applied a very scientific method to look at what causes variation in organizations’ preferences for policy outcomes. I realized during my interviews with CEOs that they didn’t see the question the way I did. None of my hypotheses covered their most basic concern, which was about risk. In political science there is an equation (probability x consequences = risk). I was speaking a different language because CEOs understand risk as the possibility that you won’t achieve your expected return on investment. I had to learn about risk and business methodology on my own. If you consider that businesses have 40–50 year amortization periods and investor demands for consistent returns, then it becomes clear why they would favor the stability and certainty of a carbon pricing system, even over the possibility of increased costs.
Q: Did any new questions arise while writing the book?
KM: The question of what risk was in a business context arose, but also how does that relate to a political context. In the political environment, the government creates the rules and regulations under which businesses operate. Change makes it difficult for them to make accurate investments, when risk is seen as uncertainty, rather than increased costs.
Link to press: www.utppublishing.com