Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States

InsightaaS: The Risky Business project was launched in October, 2013 to focus on "quantifying and publicizing the economic risks from the impacts of a changing climate." Although it is a relatively new initiative, it has very deep roots at the highest level of the US business and political communities: the three co-chairs include Michael Bloomberg (former mayor of New York and founder of the Bloomberg information services empire, including the BNA unit that publishes sustainable IT columns from InsightaaS), Henry Paulson (former US Secretary of the Treasury and ex-chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs) and investment banker Tom Steyer; its Risk Committee includes three other former US Secretaries (former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala).

Given the experience of its leadership, one would expect Risky Business to produce deep and meaningful content - and readers of "The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States" report will find this expectation fulfilled, if in a different context than is generally used in sustainability reporting. Most treatises dealing with ecological issues focus primarily or entirely on science and projections. The Risky Business analysis is based on these sources as well, but adds a "standard risk-assessment approach" to evaluate the economic cost of climate change through the year 2100. The report notes that "the American economy is already beginning to feel the effects of climate change. These impacts will likely grow materially over the next 5 to 25 years and affect the future performance of today’s business and investment decisions," highlighting damage to coastal property and infrastructure, increases in energy demand and the risk of reduced crop yields as three ways in which the economy could be significantly affected by climate change. It finds that "if we act aggressively to both adapt to the changing climate and to mitigate future impacts by reducing carbon emissions–we can significantly reduce our exposure to the worst economic risks from climate change, and also demonstrate global leadership on climate."

From the executive summary of the report:

The U.S. faces significant and diverse economic risks from climate change. The signature effects of human-induced climate change–rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat–all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation’s current assets and ongoing economic activity.

To date, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the economic risks our nation faces from the changing climate. Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.–as well as for selected sectors of the economy–if we continue on our current path. The Risky Business research focused on the clearest and most economically significant of these risks: Damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge, climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand, and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.

Our research combines peer-reviewed climate science projections through the year 2100 with empirically-derived estimates of the impact of projected changes in temperature, precipitation, sea levels, and storm activity on the U.S. economy. We analyze not only those outcomes most likely to occur, but also lower-probability high-cost climate futures. Unlike any other study to date, we also provide geographic granularity for the impacts we quantify, in some cases providing county-level results.

Our findings show that, if we continue on our current path, many regions of the U.S. face the prospect of serious economic effects from climate change. However, if we choose a different path–if we act aggressively to both adapt to the changing climate and to mitigate future impacts by reducing carbon emissions–we can significantly reduce our exposure to the worst economic risks from climate change, and also demonstrate global leadership on climate...

Read the entire executive summary: http://riskybusiness.org/report/overview/executive-summary

Access the entire report: http://riskybusiness.org/uploads/files/RiskyBusiness_PrintedReport_FINAL_WEB_OPTIMIZED.pdf

(note - I had trouble getting this link to resolve in Firefox, but it worked fine in IE and Chrome)

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