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June 26, 2014

Already feeling impacts of climate disruption, American small business owners support more government action

FEMA_-_38586_-_Small_Business_Administrators_Survey_Hurricane_Ike_Damage

Officials from the Small Business Administration Tour Damaged Businesses in Houston After Hurricane Ike (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most-common complaint about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed carbon pollution limits for power plants is that such regulations will hurt small businesses, which employ half of all private-sector employees in the United States. But new national polling turns this common notion on its head, finding that strong majorities of small business owners are already feeling the impacts of climate disruption on their businesses and expect the government to take more action -- including limiting carbon pollution.

A poll released today by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) finds that nearly nine-in-ten (87%) U.S. small business owners fear the consequences of climate disruption will harm their business in the future. A majority (53%) expect their business to be hurt by higher energy costs associated with climate disruption, closely followed by outages due to stress on the power, severe storms and higher healthcare costs. The scientific, national phone survey of 555 owners of small businesses (2 to 99 employees) was conducted this month by Lake Research Partners. A strong plurality (43%) of respondents identified themselves as either Republican or Independent-leaning Republican; 29% identified themselves as Democratic or Independent-leaning Democratic; and 19% identified as Independent.

Not only are small business owners concerned about the future, but nearly one-in-five (19%) say extreme weather events associated with climate disruption have already hurt their business. An additional 34% believe extreme weather could impact their business in the future. And despite arguments to the contrary, the survey found that nearly two-in-three small business owners (64%) agree that government action is needed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, which are the largest single source of carbon pollution causing climate disruption. Support is found across party lines, with 81% of Democrats, 65% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans saying we need government action. Just 29% think that industries would regulate themselves and reduce carbon emissions sufficiently on their own.

In many ways, America’s small businesses are on the front lines of climate disruption. Increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather are already threatening the supply chains and infrastructure that small businesses depend on. And while many small business owners are learning to do more with less and are finding innovative ways to reduce their own carbon emissions, they expect the federal and state governments to step up and lead the fight to mitigate future impacts of climate disruption. While more research should be conducted on this topic, this ASBC poll is a fascinating first look at what small business owners are thinking about climate disruption, its impacts on small businesses, and various approaches to mitigate further impacts.

The EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards are a historic step in the right direction, but small business owners understand that there is much more to be done. After all, climate action is not a political issue for America’s small business owners; it is simply good for business.

--Grace McRae, Polling & Research Director, Sierra Club

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