Weathering the Storm: How businesses are navigating a changing climate

More than 800 major weather-related disasters last year led to over $130 billion in losses worldwide. Eleven of those events each resulted in economic losses of $1 billion or more.

A new C2ES report, "Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change," examines how major global companies are beginning to assess and address the growing business risks associated with increased extreme weather and other impacts of climate change. Here’s what we found:

Leading companies are taking proactive steps to better anticipate extreme weather and climate changes, and to more quickly recover after their effects — where they see opportunities to become more efficient, reduce costs, or provide greater value to customers. Generally speaking, these companies follow a four-step process.

Weathering the Storm: How to build business resilience to climate change

From the record-breaking Black Forest wildfire in Colorado to record-low water levels for the Great Lakes, extreme weather events seem to be more the norm of late than the exception. Earlier this month, NOAA ranked 2012 as the United States’ second most costly year for damages from extreme weather events. 

The increasing financial risks associated with extreme weather have not been lost on the business community. Companies have always had to navigate a changing business environment. But now they face a changing physical environment, as climate change leads to higher sea levels and more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and downpours.

A new C2ES report released today, "Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change," takes a comprehensive look at how major global companies view these rising risks and what they are beginning to do to better understand and manage them. 

Smart technologies aid federal agencies' sustainability efforts

In his speech on Tuesday laying out a national climate action plan, President Obama called on federal agencies to lead by example in taking actions to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

In a new report today, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) highlights one area where the federal government is making progress, and can achieve much more.  It’s called Leading by Example 2.0: How Information and Communication Technologies Help Federal Agencies Meet Sustainability Goals.

Faced with declining budgets, federal agencies are looking for innovative ways to cut costs while meeting a growing list of sustainability mandates.  Expanding the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) – metering and energy management systems for buildings, GPS-based tools for fleets, teleconferencing, e-training, teleworking, and cloud-based data storage – offer agencies new ways to reduce their energy use, cut greenhouse gas emissions and enhance productivity.

We estimate widespread deployment of  ICT could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent, roughly half the amount called for under a 2009 executive order, and could save an estimated $5 billion in energy costs through 2020.

Obama will need to act on his climate plan with a sense of urgency

In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised stronger action on climate change.  Today he followed up with a credible and comprehensive plan.  The real issue now is how vigorously he follows through.

From a policy perspective, the president’s plan lacks the sweep, cohesion and ambition that might be possible through new legislation.  With Congress unwilling to act, the president instead is offering an amalgam of actions across the federal government, relying on executive powers alone.

Taken together, the actions represent the broadest climate strategy put forward by any U.S. president, addressing the need to both cut carbon emissions and strengthen climate resilience.  While many of the specific items are relatively small-bore, and quite a few are actions already underway, the plan also includes new initiatives that can significantly advance the U.S. climate effort.

Conservatives debate a carbon tax

The discussion of a carbon tax continues. Conservatives met recently in Washington, D.C., to debate the mertis of a carbon taxt at an event hosted by the R Street Institute and the Heartland Institute, featuring representatives with opposing viewpoints from four conservative think tanks.

A 2013 C2ES brief found that a carbon tax was one way to put a price on carbon emissions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and raise significant revenue for the federal government. A tax starting at about $16 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2014 and rising 4 percent over inflation per year would raise more than $1.1 trillion in the first 10 years, and more than $2.7 trillion over a 20-year period. This revenue could fund a wide range of things, including deficit reduction, a reduction in statutory corporate income tax rates from 35 percent to 28 percent (often cited as a goal by both conservatives and liberals), and research and development into low-emitting technology.  Importantly, such a carbon tax could also reduce CO2 emissions by 9.3 billion tons over 20 years.