Friday, July 15, 2011

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 7 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 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.

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