Employee Management

Job Posting: Climate Adaptation Expert?

I am noticing something remarkable in arguably the most important job category: elected officials. Might we see a 180-degree shift in the qualifications for this unusual job category?  In 2010, six-term South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis lost his House seat because he believed in human-caused climate change. Now we have Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who gets it, as do some former “flat earth” proponents. (Even Charles and David Koch, the oil tycoons who for years have bankrolled climate-change deniers, may be changing their tune since a study on earth surface temperatures, that they financed, in part found that global warming is occurring and humans have played a role in it.)

The way Christie ably managed the Hurricane Sandy climate crisis in his state has provided cover for politicians of all political persuasions to claim leadership in this area.  A good thing too, since  Yale Project on Climate Change Communication recently reported that 58 percent of registered voters consider global warming when determining for whom to vote.

Those numbers are for the U.S., but it appears to be true elsewhere. Greenland just elected a new prime minister, Aleqa Hammond, whose primary strength over the incumbent was her handling of mineral and metal rights in those growing areas of Greenland no longer covered by ice.  Thus, that election was settled over an already-changed climate.

Business may be a bit closer to making these choices, too. CDP Supply Chain Report 2012-13,  73 percent of surveyed companies  say they feel that climate change presents a physical risk to their operations. Still, fully 44 percent of CEOs in the survey acknowledged that climate change isn’t a significant item on their agendas.

Perhaps Greenbiz’ State of Green Business 2013 addresses it best when it asks (page 13) “at what point will climate, extreme weather and resource constraints be similarly seen as a patent threat that requires changes to the design and operation of our businesses and supply chains?  What will be the dramatic event(s) that provide the tipping point?  How much disruption and inconvenience will the public be willing to tolerate?”

So, let’s see if the hot new job of the 2020s will be Corporate Climate Research and Adaptation Strategic Advisor.   For thoughts on what that job entails, see Ten Point Checklist for Making Corporations Resilient and Asking the Climate Question: How to Create a Climate Adaptation Plan.

Climate Adaptation: Basic Risk Management

Climate Adaptation: Basic Risk Management

Climate adaptation fits squarely in your corporation’s risk management platform.  Every cent spent to decrease the risk of loss of employee work time, supplier-chain disruption and building livability will be worth it.  That’s why it’s important to consider what climate change adaptation means for the success of your business today and in the future.
For this discussion, let’s just consider the generic adaptation required for companies regardless of the geography of their facility holdings.  Factors that may require adaptation response include Extreme heat in the summer, significant changes to ecosystems, growing flood risks, extreme rain and snow events, and additional stresses on health.  If your company has coastal and western holdings, we’ll discuss another time the risks of sea-level rise, land inundation and severe water shortages on operations.
For context, consider that scientists predict Chicago will experience more than 30 days a year of temperatures above 100O F by the end of the century compared to an average of just one day annually in the last Century. (And note that in 2010, 10 U.S. states had their hottest summer on record and all but seven states posted above-normal temperatures. Summer nighttime heat records were set in 37 states and the June-August global land surface temperature was the warmest on record.)
In addition, the extreme snows this winter, as well as unpredictable wind and rain storms that took lives and ravaged neighborhood infrastructure this summer, contribute to the predictions that we will receive much more precipitation when we do not need it – and less when we do.
So being climate-change ready this summer may be as simple as:
·         Ensuring that your company has a strong telecommuting infrastructure for days employees cannot get to the office.
·         Reminding employees up and down the chain to drink water, seek cooling centers and stay out of the sun on days of extreme heat.
·         Allowing employees to leave the office in advance of a storm that might cut off transportation from work to home (especially crucial for employees caring for elderly or disabled relatives at home or responsible for transporting children to and from school).
It also could entail taking careful stock of any of your holdings within the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 100-year flood plain; ensuring that any toxic materials (deicers and fertilizers, in addition to industrial materials) are stored away from areas that could flood; and considering the probable impacts of a power disruption on your operations – disruptions to plumbing and other easy-to-forget situations as well as to your computers and network, elevators and phones.