US companies, communities rely on federal climate science

Businesses rely on government for factual, unbiased information to help them make decisions about where and how to grow.

They need U.S. Census data to see how patterns of population growth could affect the demand for goods and services. They need energy supply and demand data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to understand this critical input to productivity.

And they need climate data to help them identify the risks climate impacts pose to their facilities, operations, and supply and distribution chains.

The National Climate Assessment -- mandated by Congress -- is one of the tools that helps companies understand and prepare for climate risks – risks that more than 90 percent of major companies recognize. The latest version (still in draft form) is the product of researchers at 13 federal agencies and has undergone rigorous, independent peer-review by a 14-member committee at the National Academies.

But the administration is disbanding the federal advisory panel that helps policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the National Climate Assessment into long-term planning. And researchers say they are worried the findings in the final release will be altered or suppressed by administration officials who oppose federal action on climate change.

That would be a mistake.

Government officials concerned about the health and competitiveness of U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy need to know that businesses rely on unbiased federal scientific data for decision making.

Sea-level rise projections let coastal property owners choose the right amount of flood protection for their needs. Accurate counts of frost-free days help farmers understand how growing seasons are changing so they can adjust their practices. City and state governments also need reliable data to ensure infrastructure is built to last and communities are prepared for more extreme heat waves, droughts, and downpours.

It is in the interest of the U.S. economy to see strong support for science continue at the federal level.

The National Climate Assessment is a valuable tool companies and communities use to plan for the impacts of climate change. It is by no means the only government report that gives evidence of the reality of climate change. Countless observations show us that the world of today is unlike the world of our parents. The annual State of the Climate report -- edited by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, peer-reviewed, and published in August in the scientific journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society --  assembles the latest observations, including:

  • 2016 was the hottest year globally on record (surpassing record-setting 2015 and 2014)
  • Global mean sea level in 2016 was the highest since satellites began making measurements
  • Arctic temperatures reached 3.5°C above 1900 levels, a new high.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations topped 400 parts per million for the first time in at least 800,000 years

Every credible line of evidence tells us that the Earth’s climate will continue to change in mostly harmful ways. That means governments, communities, and companies need to reduce climate-altering emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change impacts we’re already experiencing and that will grow worse without emissions reduction.

To help planners and risk managers in the public and private sectors make use of existing government climate data, C2ES is hosting a webinar to discuss “Using Climate Data in the Real World.” Government scientists from NOAA and Argonne National Lab will describe the climate datasets available for public use and how climate model outputs can be “downscaled” to provide granular data relevant to resilience planners. Business representatives will share their experience using this data in real world decision-making.

The September 27 webinar is just one component of C2ES’ work to promote information-sharing and collaboration between scientists, businesses, and governments to assess climate vulnerabilities and develop resilience strategies.