It’s time to start making a change to help deal with climate change. The extreme weather around the world is already becoming a big problem, and it’s only going to get worse if people—and businesses—don’t do something about it, according to a recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, prepared by 91 authors and editors from 40 countries.
IN 2018, OUT OF 14 TROPICAL STORMS THAT FORMED NEAR THE UNITED States’ Atlantic region, eight became hurricanes with two reaching Category 3 or higher status, meaning they produced wind speeds of at least 111 mph with 9 to 12 feet of storm surge that included hurricanes Florence and Michael. In October 2018, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm killing more than 40 people and causing an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion in damages, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This was on the heels of another major storm— Hurricane Florence—which made landfall the month before and was the wettest recorded tropical cyclone ever to hit the Carolinas. The previous year saw even more damage from Maria, which the Insurance Information Institute said was the second-costliest hurricane to ever hit the United States, as well as Irma and Harvey that produced well-documented damage and destruction in Puerto Rico and Texas along with other states and islands. On top of that, from Jan. 1 to March 1, 2019, alone there were almost 2,100 wildfires in the United States that burned nearly 41,000 acres of land, and that doesn’t even include the deadly Camp Fire in California that burned more than 153,000 acres and killed more than 80 people in November 2018. As the Center for Climate and EnergySolutions explains, the median burn area could increase “as much as 600 percent in some types of forests” with a 1°C temperature increase. And these are just the climate-related events that have affected the United States and its neighbors. The tsunami that hit Indonesia in fall 2018, for instance, caused thousands of deaths along with a major financial impact to the area. According to a 2015 global assessment report from the United Nation’s Office of Disaster Risk Reduction, Economic losses from disasters “have risen steadily, stoked by climate change, unbalanced urbanization and inequalities, and now average $250 billion to $300 billion a year.”
Not a Favorable Forecast
As the National Academy of Sciences researchers wrote in their 2016 report on extreme weather and climate change, “Humans have contributed to warming of the climate system globally (predominantly due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions). This finding is supported by multiple lines of evidence that originate from data from observing systems across the globe on land and sea and in the atmosphere and from structurally different analyses of multiple components of the climate system. A substantial body of evidence also shows that climate change has led to discernible and quantifiable changes in the intensity and/ or frequency of some types of extremes.”
The news is even more sobering when you read the UN panel’s findings that “human-induced warming has already reached about 1°C above pre-industrial levels at the time of the writing of this Special Report. … If the current warming rate continues, the world would reach human-induced global warming of 1.5°C around 2040.”
It could even happen as early as 2030, according to the report, and the rise in temperature will likely affect the food and water supply as well.
Added Panmao Zhai, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group I, in a news release: “One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.”
There is hope though to stem the tide of climate change, but it will take an “unprecedented” commitment from countries to make changes, according to the UN report. In a ruling that could move the needle in that direction, The Guardian recently reported that a Dutch appellate judge ruled that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 25 percent by 2020.
Saving the Planet & Saving Money Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
The article also states that there are similar lawsuits in the court system in other countries such as New Zealand and Uganda.
In a news release, Chris Weber, the World Wildlife Fund’s lead global climate change scientist, said of the UN climate change report: “We must have laser-focus on delivering on 1.5 degrees, and this report provides a pathway to get there. We need to halve greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2030 and cut coal use by two-thirds by the same date.”
According to the report, emissions need to decline quickly from all the main industries in the world, including transportation, energy and agriculture among others. The report also recommends phasing out coal and focusing on renewable energies, concentrating on electric vehicles and reducing the carbon footprint from food.
Exxon Mobil recently donated $1 million to a group lobbying for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The goal of Americans for Carbon Dividends is for the U.S. government to implement a tax designed to help lower greenhouse gas emissions. As CNBC reports, “A single, national tax policy would provide regulatory certainty to the energy industry, and the Baker-Shultz plan in particular seeks to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule-making authority,” referring to James Baker III and George Shultz, the founders of the lobbying group.
“The impacts of climate change are an increasingly urgent concern,” said Jeff Ladner, Sphera’s vice president of Environmental Performance. “The path to moderating human-induced impacts will likely require myriad approaches from regulation to market-based mechanisms such as cap-and-trade and carbon taxes. Regardless of the approaches applied, companies increasingly need to understand their operational risks and environmental impacts with more accurate, detailed and timely information.”
He continued, “The days of an annual report supported by nothing more than spreadsheets are behind us. Companies need to take a disciplined, accounting-based approach to understanding their Environmental Performance, and integrate that information into an Integrated Risk Management framework that identifies and assesses all of the risks that extreme weather and other climate change-related phenomena may entail.”
Additionally, if the temperature continues to rise as the report predicts, companies could be flooded with potential Operational Risk, Ladner said, including but not limited to flooding in their plants, which can lead to serious risks for employees; lack of water for their operations; and general supply chain disruptions and damage that severe weather can cause.
There’s a misperception out there, Ladner said, that a disciplined, well-supported environmental management strategy is too costly. “The truth is it’s actually the opposite,” he said.
In fact, an Environmental Leader article from a few years ago explained that General Electric Co. saved $300 million by reducing greenhouse gases and water usage.
Evidence shows that saving the planet and saving money aren’t mutually exclusive. The question is: Will the operational climate change in time to meet these greenhouse gas and emission objectives?