Magazine

The Welches Need To Face Facts About Global Warming


Back in the day, Jack Welch would annually evaluate his managers, fire the bottom 10%, and lavish praise and bonuses on the performers. But now in "The global warming wager" (The Welch Way, Feb. 26) he has flipped the other way and seems intent on firing the overwhelming consensus of scientists and promoting the 1% of deniers.

Jack, this debate is over, and the scientists have won. There is no other side, there is no on the other hand, there is no more time for fence-sitting and prevarication. It is real, it is worsening, we are causing it, and the later we change course the worse it will be and the more it will cost our children and grandchildren.

We will be reengineering the industrial infrastructure of our global civilization over the next 50 years. General Electric Co. (GE) stands poised to make scads of money from it. The "Electric" in General Electric will be a huge component as we move away from fossil fuels. I, for one, intend to be part of the solution, glancing up from my labors on high, dry land to see the Jack Welches huddle on their ever-diminishing iceberg, heading out into turbulent warming waters, debating what is real and what is not.

Ian Keay

Palo Alto, Calif.

Given the partisanship that grips Washington and the media culture that feeds on such divisiveness, Jack and Suzy Welch's uncertainty about global warming is understandable.

If they were to talk to actual climate scientists, however, and avoid the spin doctors trying to overlay their agendas onto media interpretations of the science, they would come away understanding that the case for a human fingerprint on climate change is close to airtight.

Regardless, it was heartening to read their message that business should plan as if global warming will have far-reaching impacts on human society. Many have likened reducing greenhouse gas emissions to paying an insurance premium in order to reduce unbearable risks. That analogy doesn't quite hit the mark. Cutting emissions through energy efficiency and other process improvements will have lasting business benefits, even if, somehow, The Wall Street Journal's diehard ideologues know something thousands of scientists don't.

Jim DiPeso

Republicans for Environmental Protection

Seattle

We object to Jack and Suzy Welch equating the status of the global warming debate to that of the political debate between Democrats and Republicans about the state of the U.S. economy or the status of war in Iraq.

Far from being a political debate, the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is a sobering assessment of the possible impact of climate change on human civilization and the natural world. This conclusion is based on the best of current scientific measurements, observations, and climate modeling simulations, all published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

To equate hundreds of scientific studies with an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal indicates that we have truly entered an age where truth is relative.

We need to change our way of thinking from short-term, bottom-line models to one that spans decades or even centuries and that takes the needs of both human and nonhuman communities, present and future, into account.

Roger DeKock and Kenneth Piers

Professors of Chemistry

Calvin College

Grand Rapids, Mich.

The statement your reporter elected to use from my interview for "The real scandal at Citi" (News & Insights, Feb. 26) could lead readers to incorrectly interpret the comment as a less-than-enthusiastic assessment of Chuck O. Prince's performance to date. As I stated in the interview, I believe Chuck has acted decisively and has taken bold steps to continue to position Citigroup (C) for growth, while delivering an impressive current return on equity. I also believe he is putting the company on the right course to capitalize on the opportunities available to it as a result of its unique and powerful global franchise.

Jay S. Fishman

Chairman & CEO

Travelers Cos. (TRV)

St. Paul, Minn.

While imprisoning deadbeat parents sounds like the right thing to do, if you look deeper into the story, they are often dead-broke parents ("Pepperoni, onions, handcuffs," Up Front, Feb. 26).

Debtors prisons were eliminated years ago, with the exception of child-support debt. Here we throw dads and (rarely) moms into jail. Not too many parents can meet their obligations from a prison cell. Can you imagine if we threw all American debtors into prisons and put their pictures on pizza boxes? I don't think the country has enough boxes.

Peter G. Hill

Weston, Mass.

As a usability engineer, I loved seeing my field described as the "wow factor" in "Trimming the fat from technology" (Up Front, Feb. 26).

Many technology companies are guilty of thinking that the way to make their products more attractive is to add features that customers may or may not really want. It is a sad reality that basic usability is so rare that it elicits a "wow" reaction from customers.

Most user studies find that people prefer products that are easy to learn and easy to use. But they get sucked into buying products based on long feature lists because they can't tell how hard the product is to use while they are in the store.

If companies want to develop loyal customers, they should focus on usability and not worry so much about having the longest feature list in the store.

Marc Resnick

Miami

At the end of Michael Arndt's book review of Payback by James P. Andrew and Harold L. Sirkin, he says: "There's also ample payback in being reminded that innovation is likely to be no more of a fix-all than management fads of the past" ("Turning ideas into dollars," Books, Feb. 26).

Real innovation as practiced by many companies is not a fad. It is the combination of technical invention and business insight for creating products that generate revenue and profit. For example, research at IBM (IBM) is aligned with corporate needs and for many years has successfully helped turn inventions into products sold in the marketplace. To promote innovation, it is necessary to create a culture that supports some risk-taking, but also includes the careful development of strategy and research and development projects and the regular measurement of results. Innovation is an evolving process and today includes research in services and business models.

Robin Williams

Former Associate Director

IBM Almaden Research Center

San Jose, Calif.

I read with great interest your recent article "Spies, lies & KPMG" (Investigations, Feb. 26). As a strategic intelligence professional, I have often been asked by clients to provide counterintelligence counsel to deal with circumstances similar to those you describe. What is invariably found in such cases is that in an increasingly globalized economy, intelligence gathering by any means is a simple fact of life. Unfortunately, many organizations do not convey this information to their employees, making them easy prey to the entreaties of individuals utilizing simple forms of pretext.

Alden R. Taylor

Managing Partner

Strategic Insights

Stamford, Conn.


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