Volkswagen's recent gaffe reminds us who's ultimately in control of climate change: The industry, not the policymakers over on Capitol Hill.
The German auto manufacturer was recently busted by the Environmental Protection Agency, where an ongoing investigation exposed the company's flagrant disregard for environmentalism despite strict regulations limiting carbon emissions.
Approximately 11 million diesel cars worldwide were outfitted with unethical software that allowed them to cheat on emissions tests, only to emit pollutants up to 40 times the legal limit during actual use.
The $7.3 billion fail resulted in a half-million vehicle recall, a 30 percent plummet in the company's stock and worldwide condemnation of the once beloved manufacturing giant.
"Das Auto" ist kaputt. And so is our approach to climate change.
We've Got the Power
Volkswagen's downward spiral spotlights an enduring truth: Industries don't need a climate change bill or an international treaty to lead or squander climate change efforts; large corporations can take it upon themselves to do either.
Take Siemens, for example. The global industrial manufacturing company went in a starkly different direction than Volkswagen, pouring $110 million into improving energy efficiency at offices and factories worldwide over the next three years. They aim to cut their admittedly large global carbon footprint in half by 2020 and make Siemens global operations carbon-neutral by 2030.
"Cutting your carbon footprint is not only possible, but profitable. With today's software and technology, it's easier than ever before to increase efficiency," said Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser in a New York Times op-ed. "We expect our $110 million investment to pay for itself in just five years and generate $20 million in annual savings thereafter."
Siemens joins other large companies -- including PepsiCo, Walmart and UPS -- in acknowledging their corporate responsibility to address the causes of climate change. Pepsi has even implemented energy efficiency programs and initiatives, increasing efficiency in their US operations by four percent in 2013.
Both Siemens and Volkswagen show us just how subjective climate change really is.
You don't need sweeping political reform, party polarization and dozens of filibustered bills lying dead on the Senate floor to promote or prevent it -- you need strong industry leaders and a proven profit margin. Climate change started, and will inevitably end, within our global industrial superpowers.
This post originally appeared on GenFKD.com in September 2015.