Most of the conversation and problem solving related to climate action is focused on mitigation. Everyone knows that one way or another global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be in line with the generally accepted Paris Agreement if we are going to avoid the worst case scenarios from climate change. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon sequestration, electrification, and grid transformation are different mitigation arrows in the climate action quiver.
If climate action were to be granted one wish and chose to magically bring new carbon emissions to zero, our environmental problems still wouldn’t be solved. The damage has already been done. Consider the vast
amount of carbon that has already been added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. There is enough energy in the system already to cause decades of additional warming, increased storm & precipitation intensity, flooding, sea level rise, drought and wildfire risk.
Companies, governments, creditors and investors ALSO need to plan and act for climate adaptation. To formulate a meaningful action
plan, one needs to, first, one needs to understand each entity’s risk footprint. What an entity has at risk depends on geography, facility characteristics and operational specifics. For instance, a shipping port in the southeast has different concerns than a ski business in the Rockies. A supply-chain dependent manufacturing plant has different concerns than an urban financial center. Understanding discrete risk profiles is necessary to formulating a meaningful action plan.
Consider these two risk profiles for different kinds of locations in North Carolina. The below research comes from Four Twenty Seven who blend economic modeling with climate science. This data shows a 0 to 100 risk score for six climate related threats for both the Port of Wilmington and downtown Charlotte NC. A score of 100 represents maximum risk.
How are stakeholders for the Port of Wilmington going to adapt to the future threat of damage and disruption from hurricanes? What physical changes need to be made? What investments are no longer prudent?
Charlotte is one of the top 3 banking centers in the U.S. How will the city and its companies adapt to future heat stress? What are the considerations for building operations, employee health and service disruptions? What are the financial risks of inadequate climate adaptation here?
It’s smart business to continue to use less energy, transition to renewables and support nature-based solutions, to mitigate more risk, but it is ALSO smart business to understand and adapt to what is already on the way.