National Climate Assessment – getting people to do something about it

A few weeks after a spirited conversation with a client about how best to communicate sustainability, I spied an opportunity at the National Adaptation Forum early this month. The Forum was chock-a-block full of convincing data that emphasize we need to act.  But fewer actors than I would have liked attended; corporate participants were noticeably absent, except for a few private sector consultants, like me. Image from the January, 2013 DRAFT National Climate Assessmen

while the NCA process is designed to be highly inclusive and participatory, we need to ensure that the private sector is, indeed, meaningfully engaged.  The corporate sector has real risk and opportunity related to climate change and they should join the brave folks who have the temerity to ask what can be done to bring the rich resource – the national climate assessment – into the space of action.

(By the way, if you read no further, please note that the National Climate Assessment (NCA) will go to President Obama in December, and you have until the end of this week to comment.  Whoever you are, if you have a stake in your home, your business or your community, the report relates to you, so give it a gander!)

I maintain that the NCA nurtures several super powers:

1.       The power of the prez: Obama can meet with a key group of corporate scions (as he does when seeking assistance with passing key legislation) to share the national climate assessment and ask them to relate and discuss their own adaptation actions and challenges.

2.       The power of story:  There are millions of companies in America.  Climate change already has affected countless numbers of them.   What are they and other companies with foresight doing to adapt?  A nonfederal convener as impartial and neutral as Facebook could offer a cloud on which corporate adaptation stories could reside, with the NCA serving as a foundation.  For each chapter – health, agriculture, forestry, etc…..we could create a wiki of examples to inspire and cajole others to action.

3.       The power of accountability: Somewhere between the big donor and the common man sits the 300-plus U.S. companies that are part of the Carbon Disclosure Project or the more than 4,000 companies from 60 countries that report through the Global Reporting Initiative.  These companies are embracing accountability as a way to earn and burnish their license to lead. We must strongly encourage CDP and GRI to create a community of climate adaptation leaders by giving credence to adaptation.

The Carbon Disclosure Project has cast a spotlight on supply-chain engagements.  How about illuminating climate adaptation next?

In the meantime, check out NCAnet, a network of organizations working with the NCA to engage producers and users of assessment information across the United States.  Perhaps a group you collaborate with has already joined.  Or perhaps you can be the spark to ignite engagement.