Just because a company takes actions to reduce greenhouse gases – and talks about them explicitly in the context of manmade climate change – it doesn’t necessarily follow that the company’s top official thinks manmade climate change is a problem. Or that it even exists.

Whole Foods bagConsider Austin-based Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain specializing in “natural” and organic products, and its libertarian-minded co-founder and chief executive, John Mackey.

Whole Foods does a lot to reduce its carbon footprint – it ranked fourth in the U.S, Environmental Protection Agency’s latest list of the 50 corporations and government entities that buy the most “green power.”

Even so, Mackey was recently quoted expressing strong skepticism about the science underlying the conclusion that human activities are altering the earth’s climate. His views on the subject were reported in a lengthy profile in the Jan. 4 issue of The New Yorker. The passage in question was part of a discussion of Mackey’s voracious reading and the books he was reading at the time of the interview:

One of the books on the list was “Heaven and Earth: Global Warming – the Missing Science,” a skeptical take on climate change. Mackey told me that he agrees with the book’s assertion that, as he put it, “no scientific consensus exists” regarding the causes of climate change; he added, with a candor you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow “hysteria about global warming” to cause us “to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.” One would imagine that, on this score, many of his customers, to say nothing of most climate scientists, might disagree. He also said, “Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.”

According to the EPA, Whole Foods buys more than 790 million kilowatt hours of “green power” annually – specifically, power from wind and solar generation – an amount equivalent to 105 percent of the electricity the company actually uses.

Whole Foods itself describes a number of its corporate policies and actions in terms of their role in fighting climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases. Some examples from the “Green Mission” page on its Web site:

  • “Whole Foods is committed to protecting rainforests, communities and our global climate.”
  • “Organic agriculture builds healthy, vital soil that’s rich with microorganisms and nutrients so it holds moisture, resists erosion and absorbs CO2 to help thwart global warming.”
  • “Individual stores from several regions supplement our wind credit purchase with power from solar panels and power generated by biomass. A typical solar installation can…result in more than 1,650 tons of CO2 emissions avoided, the equivalent of removing 440 cars from the roadways.”
  • “We are gradually converting our truck fleet to biodiesel fuels, reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.”
  • Links on the “Green Mission” page lead to information at other Internet locations. One is the Web site of BeGreen, a “carbon offset provider,” which states: “With our increased use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels, such as coal  and oil, the scientific community agrees that humans are negatively affecting the climate.” Another is the Union of Concerned Scientists’ global warming page, which states: “Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.”

– Bill Dawson

Image credits: Shopping bag image and logo – Whole Foods Market