Climate Change Opinions Don't Help Business; Data Do

We try to stay away from politics on the blog, so we were reluctant to take up the Sierra Club’s recent report concluding that if Donald Trump became president he would be unique among world leaders in his refusal to acknowledge climate change.  Business Insider went one better back in January when it republished numerous tweets by Mr. Trump captioning climate change as a hoax, bull***, mythical and non-existent.

Readers can make their own choices on what to believe.  But business advisers, they can’t rely on presidential candidates or talk show hosts or their preacher.  Business advisers are paid to help their clients solve problems and problems are solved not with hopes or opinions or diatribes, but with facts.  In other words, what does climate science tell us?  And business advisers are not interested in general statements of whether the planet is warming or the ice caps are melting or the glaciers are retreating all over the world.  Rather, what are the local details?

Business advisers need to make sure that their clients are getting the climate data and tools relevant to their transaction.  Are the engineers looking at prospective weather forecasts when they design site drainage, rather than just the historic record?  What kind of sea level rise is predicted for the waterfront casino location, and the infrastructure that supports it?  Can a tropical hotel’s business plan be adequate if it does not consider the enhanced range of tropical illnesses and their vectors? 

Lawyers are unlikely to know the answers to any of these questions, nor are they required to.  But they are certainly in a position to ask them, and even to point the client to resources that can start to answer the questions.  For example, where can you find visualizations of storm surge around your client’s location?  Broward County worked with the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, to develop GIS-based 3D visualization to support flood-related decision making.  How vulnerable is Alexandria, Virginia to storm surge?  Climate Central can help sort that out. Do you think Disney is concerned about guests contracting malaria at the Magic Kingdom?  If the Disney risk manager has visited the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s website, you can be certain that malaria is on Disney’s radar.    

Private entities too provide this kind of data.  It is simple to find on the internet examples such as a consultant that has reviewed a client’s $13.6 billion property portfolio to better understand climate change risks.  Another consultant has evaluated the impacts of climate change on an electric distribution utility and considered, among other things, “extreme temperatures generating high electrical demand and unusual operating conditions, flooding of below-grade sub-stations and equipment, and ice and wind damages to overhead lines and poles.”       

The point is simple:  talking heads of whatever sort can never provide the information a business needs to move forward.  Instead, go to the data. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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