Government officials, economists, financiers and everyone else in the business community need to ask: How much economic risk do we face from unmitigated climate change? Answering this question would go a long way toward helping us all prepare for the extreme weather and related economic effects that are most likely coming our way.
That’s why the three of us have joined together to lead a new effort designed to do just that. Our Risky Business initiative (www.riskybusiness.org) will look across the U.S. economy and assess the potential impacts of climate change by region and by sector. Our analysis, when complete, will arm decision-makers with the information they need to determine how much climate risk they are comfortable taking on.
The reality is that we don’t yet know everything there is to know about climate change, and we don’t know its full potential impact. That’s exactly why we need to assess the risks. What will changes in temperature and precipitation mean for farmers and livestock producers? How will higher sea levels affect the value of coastal property? What might stronger and more frequent storms mean for the infrastructure that is the bedrock of our national economy?
These are not theoretical questions. We already know that extreme weather events cost a lot of money. In recent years, these costs have added up after such events as Hurricanes Sandyand Katrina; the wildfiresand epic floodsin Colorado; the die-off of pine trees across the Rocky Mountains; devastating, historic floods across the Midwest; deepening drought in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma; record heat waves across Alaska and the Northeast; and the slow but intractable death of the coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York City created a comprehensive resilience blueprintthat measures climate risk across all major vulnerable areas, from the power grid to hospitals to the coastline. Our nation needs the same blueprint. It is essential that our national exposure to climate risk be understood so all Americans can make informed decisions about the future.
We believe the Risky Business initiative will bring a critical missing piece to national conversations about climate change and help business leaders, elected officials and others make smart, well-informed, financially responsible decisions. Ignoring the potential costs could be catastrophic. That is a risk we cannot afford to take.