NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The great climate change debate rages on. In the past few days two influential CEOs -- Apple's (AAPL) Tim Cook and Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) Warren Buffett -- weighed in on the issue, one somewhat indirectly, and the other a bit more directly.
Cook was questioned at Apple's shareholder meeting Friday about the company's sustainability efforts by a representative of The National Center for Public Policy Research.
NCPPR was behind a failed shareholder proposal that sought greater transparency regarding Apple's sustainability efforts, including having all of its power generated from green sources.
The exchange reportedly became quite heated, with Cook making the point that return on investment is not always the driver for the company's initiatives, and that "if you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of the stock."
While not the direct rebuke of climate-change deniers that was initially reported, given the NCPPR's stance on the issue, Cook's message was still loud and clear.
Regarding the insurance sector, Buffett said in a CNBC interview yesterday that despite all of the recent focus on climate change, weather events of the past 10 years have not been out of the ordinary; that what some now see as unusual weather-related events, have occurred for decades.Buffett, whose insurance subsidiaries are on the hook following natural disasters, seemed to raise some doubt that "climate change" has increased weather related disasters. He said that while insurance premiums have so far been unaffected by climate change fears, he loves the "apocalyptic predictions" because they may force insurance premiums higher. As a denier myself that changes in climate, whether real or imagined, are man-caused, I actually found Cook's and Buffett's comments somewhat refreshing. While I may not agree with Cook, he is running the show at a publicly traded company; doing what he believes is best. If he wants to go green, then go green. If I disagree with him, I'll stay out of the stock; I have that choice.
As for Buffett, he tells it like it is; a straight shooter who is not mocking either side in the climate change debate. He is a businessman who unashamedly likes the dire weather related predictions because, despite the evidence that they'll come true, the uncertainty may be good for his business. What is not refreshing, however, is the politics of climate change. Decisions that will greatly affect the lives of millions are being made in Washington unilaterally with no recourse on the notion that, as President Obama said in his state of the union address, "The debate is settled; climate change is a fact." To raise doubt on that issue, as a good number of scientists have, is to be a member of the "flat-earth society." There is plenty of evidence that the earth's climate does indeed change over time, but the notion that man is the cause is far from settled.
The fact that many deniers believe this issue is more about control over their lives than actual science, has been perpetuated by the politicos; and the more they push the issue, the more steps they take to limit carbon, the greater the skepticism. Tim Cook and Warren Buffett are running publicly traded companies; which they can lead in whatever direction they want. If shareholders don't like the direction they are going, they can put forth shareholder proposals as the NCPPR did with Apple.
If they can't affect change -- the NCPPR proposal was soundly defeated -- they can continue to seek change or sell their stake. It's not that easy with government, especially in this new age of executive orders.
At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. Follow @JonMHellerCFA This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.
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