Good morning! My latest Harder Line column looks at the climate change convergence occurring across the political and business landscape. I'll share a glimpse of that, and then Ben Geman will get you up to speed on other news.
Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,163 words, 4.5 minutes.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The economics, politics and science of climate change are converging and catapulting this problem from a joke among critics to a prominent concern.
Driving the news: Shifts by politicians, among corporate leaders and within financial institutions are creating a foundation that could produce big movement for the first time since, well, forever.
Why it matters: If the world’s political and business leaders are going to seriously move to cut heat-trapping emissions, they first need to pay attention to it.
The big picture: We’ve written about these shifts several times over the past couple years. It’s worth examining them together because the amount of new attention that’s occurred in a matter of weeks is staggering.
In Washington, congressional Republicans and even President Trump are scrambling to acknowledge the problem after years of denying it — and in some cases mocking it outright.
Among corporate executives and financial leaders, climate is quickly becoming a concrete worry. In addition to being the sole official topic of the World Economic Forum last week in Davos for the first time, a range of pronouncements have come from BlackRock, the IMF and more in just the last several weeks.
But, but, but: This doesn’t guarantee a path to big global action. It lays the foundation, but a lot more would have to happen to make actual change possible.
Another big caveat is that although climate change itself poses huge risks, aggressively acting on it does too — and those risks are realized far more quickly and thus may have swift political consequences hindering more action.
What I’m watching: What change — namely, big government policy — could happen from this newfound attention, including to what degree companies really begin to lobby Washington for big change.
Crude oil prices fell to their lowest levels in over three months Monday as traders weigh how much the spread of the coronavirus will eat into demand because travel and economic activity is curtailed.
Why it matters: The sharp drop, which follows declines last week, shows how the spreading virus is rippling through global markets.
The intrigue: OPEC and allied producers "have held preliminary discussions about making deeper cuts to oil production if the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak keeps weighing on crude prices," the Financial Times reports this morning.
What they're saying: Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman sought to downplay concerns about the virus having a major effect on oil consumption.
GM will detail plans this morning to invest $2.2 billion to retool its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for production of electric and autonomous vehicles, per multiple reports.
Driving the news: The vehicles include the Cruise Origin, which is the 6-passenger, driverless electric van unveiled last week.
Why it matters: It signals that GM plans to make Detroit a key hub for those technologies in the years ahead.
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Speaking of EVs, Reuters reports that Rivian will unveil pricing for its pickup and SUV soon, and "they will be lower than has been previously announced."
Why it matters: Amid the sea of new entrants into the EV market, Rivian has attracted deep-pocketed investors including Ford and Amazon and seems well poised to cross the bridge from startup to commercial-scale producer.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Hundreds of Amazon workers are pushing the company to adopt tougher climate change policies, Axios' Ina Fried reports.
Why it matters: The employees are putting their names to their comments, which were posted on Medium in a move that defies Amazon's corporate policy.
The big picture: Employee activism at tech companies is on the rise, both at companies known for openness, like Google, and companies that don't have a long tradition of worker action, like Amazon.
The other side: "We do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems,” Amazon said.
"Depending on what form the carbon tax takes, we will react to it — but if it is in its essence protectionist, like the digital taxes, we will react."
The context: That's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking to the FT about EU plans to impose border "carbon adjustments" on goods from nations without strict climate policies.
Why it matters: "The commerce secretary’s comments are among the clearest signs that the EU’s plans for a carbon tax — a top priority under the new commission led by president Ursula von der Leyen — could emerge as a major new irritant to transatlantic relations," per FT.