2015: The year when businesses finally wake up to rising temperatures?

One of my favorite things on Facebook is a new post from NASA Earth Observatory. I know. Sorry, friends and your adorable selfies and kids, but hard science backed up with beautiful spatially resolved data gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. One of their latest posts combined the data from four independently conducted studies (NASA, NOAA, Japan’s Meteorological Agency, and the UK’s Hadley Centre) to show that they all agree, and all four show that 2014 was the warmest year on since records began in 1880. It looks like our decade-long pause in warming, which had politicians and warming deniers alike breathing a sigh of relief, might be over. One the one hand, I wish that the pause could have been some magical development in our planet’s ability to self-regulate excess carbon. On the other, though, I’m glad that the deniers no longer have that particular piece of “evidence” to use to shut down dialogue on warming. There’s is also a thoughtfully conceived graphic that makes sense of the noisy El Nino/La Nina fluctuations that can confuse attempts to get a clear trend out of climate data. I was content to just have that post open in a tab for a week to admire every now and then, until I found out that Forbes Magazine had written an article about how 2014’s hot weather was bad for business. I did a double take and then a small seated dance of victory. Climate science was really taken out of politicized debate and mainstreamed into business contexts! I feel that, at the moment, too many decision-makers (I’m talking about you, Ted Cruz) maintain that climate change can be ignored if only they call for more and more scientific evidence. I had to wonder – at what point will businesses stop waiting for political cues to change their business models towards adaptability and sustainability, and go ahead and make the plunge for their bottom lines’ sake anyway?

“The investment community – along with regulators – has woken up to this threat. It is demanding more information from companies about their exposure to climate events, as well as the prospective cost of their carbon emissions.” ~“Neeraj Sahai, president of Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, Fortune magazine

But wait, what kind of effects are we talking about? I delved a bit deeper into the sources mentioned in the article to compile a short list, in no particular order:

  1. Rising energy costs of cooling buildings in hotter climate
  2. Increase in storm damage, especially along southern coastline. For example, according to riskybusiness.org, Florida could see a 5% to 9% increase in storm related costs in the next 30 years.
  3. In areas such as Florida, between 15 billion and 23 billion dollars worth of existing property will be underwater in the next 50 years. New York City, having the advantage of non-porous bedrock that can be protected with seawalls, would “only” have 7 billion to 19 billion dollars of property underwater.
  4. More days of extreme heat in the summer, resulting in more heat-related mortality and also lower worker productivity.
  5. As extreme heat spreads across the middle of the country, some states in the Southeast, lower Great Plains, and Midwest risk up to a 50% to 70% loss in average annual crop yields by the end of the century, if adaptations for changing circumstances are not made. Increased heat speeds up the water cycle, resulting in wetter wet areas (more susceptible to floods) and drier dry areas (more drought-prone) on the planet.

Resources gleaned from the Forbes Article: (because there’s nothing like a well-researched article to give me a whole new reading list)

The New Climate Economy – Organized by Felipe Calderon and backed by Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom, this Global Climate Commission promises to show some interesting perspectives from the developing world.

The WRI’s “Adapting for a Green Economy” report – a global focus on sustainable business, compiled by the independent World Resources Institute

Risky Business – a relatively new detailed, graphic-rich site focusing on climate risks in the United States, spearheaded by Michael Bloomberg and researched by an all-star cast of climate scientists, a risk management firm, and a consulting group.

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