To the Honorable President-elect of the United States:
I am neither a politician nor a scientist. I am a businessman who had the great fortune of leading a $15 billion, 55,000-person international company for nearly seven years.
I made some good decisions and some not so good decisions, but, given that profits grew five-fold in six years, I think it is fair to say that I was successful in that role. It is in that vein — businessman to businessman — that I draft this letter.
First, congratulations on your election. Now, with your first day in office imminent, there is undoubtedly intense pressure to create immediate change. However, decisions affecting the long-term resilience of our economy and our planet justify great deliberation, not haste.
As President of the United States, your greatest responsibility will be to protect our country. This includes not just military challenges, but all threats. As a fellow business person who also understands the need to manage risk, I ask you to take the threat of climate change seriously. I urge you to consider the economic and scientific facts before pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
A hasty decision on this issue, will likely isolate our nation, cede technology, innovation and jobs to China, and limit market access for our exporters.
Before making such decisions, please take time to discuss it with a wide range of experts. The United States has many of the greatest research and academic institutions in the history of the world — Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford to name just a few. Ask some of these great institutions to send their leading experts in the area of climate change and economics to meet with you for one hour.
Discuss with them the science of climate change, why they believe it is man-induced, and its likely consequences to the United States. Ask them whether the climate is changing at the rate predicted by their models and how much time we have for the global community to get it right.
Then, ask them to address the economic consequences of ignoring climate change as well as the economic opportunity for America if we were to take the lead in advancing clean energy.
A decision to stay the course on climate and institute policies harnessing American ingenuity to create truly efficient clean energy technology — akin to the effort behind the Manhattan Project — will help drive both jobs and our economy for decades to come.
Clean energy industries currently provide over 2.5 million Americans with well-paying jobs, and China is poised to create over 13 million such jobs. America also stands to become a net exporter of clean energy technology, and over 630 leading businesses have publicly urged their support for a low carbon economy.
Right now America has the opportunity to be a global leader for clean energy, or to surrender that leadership position to Europe and China which currently outspend us on that technology. Because of both the urgency and long-term economic and other broad-ranging consequences of climate change, your decision on this issue is likely to determine your legacy.
Moreover, respectfully, you owe it to your electorate, not to mention your grandchildren, to meet with the leading scientists and economists in the country before making such a consequential decision.
Gary A. Garfield retired as chairman, president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
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