Despite all this, the question of whether News Corp's building deserves its prominent green rating could be easily dismissed. LEED rates buildings, not the advocacy of its occupants.
Well, fair enough. But following that line of thinking, neither is it the job of corporate ranking systems (like the one released in Newsweek this week) to measure anything but operational greenness -- how a corporation deals with solid waste, maximizes energy efficiency, and avoids smokestack pollution on their sites, and in some cases in their supply chains. So, for example, News Corp. came in at number 234 this year among the 500 U.S. companies Newsweek ranked. Its ranking hardly suggests that this business carries more responsibility than almost any other in preventing policy solutions to the climate crisis. And earlier this year, News Corp.'s climate change performance was given a AAA rating, the highest possible score provided by MSCI ESG Research's Global Socrates, another major rating scheme.
The world is facing huge environmental problems, and climate change is the marquee. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for CO2 reductions of 80-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. That aggressive target offers just a 50/50 chance of preventing a global average temperature rise of 2 degrees C, beyond which millions are put at risk of drought, hunger, and flooding. What's necessary to fix climate change is a radical recreation of society as we know it, from how we use and generate energy to how we tax pollution and encourage efficiency. The problem is so big, and so inclusive, that it can't be solved by ad hoc voluntary actions. Even if every corporation or individual so inclined undertook the full menu of climate fixes, we'd still fail to solve the problem by many orders of magnitude because business-as-usual would remain the norm on a global level. Only large-scale policy change can fix that. Therefore, an exclusive focus on voluntary operational greening -- by businesses or by rating agencies -- risks distracting from the far greater need for the big fix.
Compared to companies' efforts to green their own operations, political actions -- like campaign funding, or lobbying Congress or the court of public opinion -- can have a vastly greater influence on environmental protection, and arguably represent the biggest impact a company can have on the environment. In fact, the very existence of a debate on climate science in the United States, and consequent lack of policy action, has been attributed to massive corporate support for the "denial industry," as detailed in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's book Merchants of Doubt. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, spent $132 million on lobbying in 2010, more than any other entity, and opposed all climate legislation. Corporate influence on government policy will only increase after last year's Citizens United Supreme Court case, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts on elections.