Businesses Lead on Sea Level Rise and Climate Change

December 2nd, 2013 › Clean Energy, Climate Action › Chris Carnevale ›

This post is part four of a blog series on sea level rise, being developed concurrent with the new IPCC climate report, Florida Atlantic University’s Sea Level Rise Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Oct. 16 – 17, and the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall on Oct. 29. See the first post, on the basic mechanisms and impacts of sea level rise, here, the second post, on how high the seas will rise, here, and the third post, on Southern communities providing leadership on sea level rise planning here.

When it comes to sea level rise, and climate change impacts in general, businesses have a major stake in minimizing the severity of impacts. Good business planning is based, in part, on risk aversion and climate change is about as risky as it gets. It doesn’t help the bottom line to be dealing with depleted natural resources, increased health care costs, or interrupted supply chains as a result of global warming. Nor does it boost profitability to have flooded real estate, inundated transportation routes, and general loss of coastal resources and income generation from sea level rise.

So it only makes sense that the private sector should be leading on the issue of sea level rise – and in some places, to some extent, the private sector is leading the way. Initiatives spanning from the local to the global are helping tear down the false duality that economy and environment are separate interests.

Take for example the SCBARS campaign. SCBARS, short for South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas, is a project of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce that SACE has been assisting with since its launch. SCBARS is a network of small, independent business owners along the South Carolina coast who are taking a stand to protect our coastal treasured places from this particular impact of climate change. Here on the Southeastern coast, the economy is firmly rooted in tourism and the local tourism industry largely comprises small, independent businesses. Small business such as these are disproportionately affected by climate impacts such as sea level rise because they have less financial padding with which to absorb shocks such as the flooding events that are becoming more typical in a warmer world, as well as the threats of flooded buildings, commuting problems for employees and access issues for customers, and higher operating costs to pay for adaptation efforts. With these risks becoming more apparent as global warming pollution goes largely unchecked, it’s no wonder that over 100 small businesses agreed to participate in SCBARS in just the first few months of the campaign.

Participating businesses display a sign, sticker, or line of blue tape in or on their building to show where 6 feet of sea level rise would be at that particular location. According to some scientists’ projections, this worst-case scenario could become reality by within this century. Upon seeing the displays, customers are encouraged to send a letter to their elected officials, urging them to take action to reduce climate pollution and thus help preserve the vitality of the community.

But small, local businesses aren’t the only ones worried about their bottom line. Major corporations in the U.S. and abroad have dedicated significant resources to leading the charge against climate pollution run amok. Take for example the 650 businesses worldwide that have signed the Climate Declaration, stating that “tackling climate change is one of the greatest American economic opportunities of the 21st century.”

More important, though, is the growing number of companies that are adopting renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals, even in areas where governmental progress on these matters can be described as sluggish at best. In the Southeast, major players like Boeing, BMW, Volkswagen, and Google have showed their commitment to climate stabilization by installing some of the largest distributed renewable energy systems in the region. Last year, a report detailed that the majority of Fortune 100 and two-third of Fortune’s Global 100 have adopted internal climate or renewable energy goals. In addition to the benefit of helping keep business running as usual, without increased risk from climate catastrophes, businesses are investing in these goals to diversify their energy portfolio, mitigate fuel cost volatility, protect against potential future climate regulations, make solid investments, and boost their image as “good corporate citizens.”

More investment is needed, and stable climate and renewable energy policies must be in place to facilitate that investment, but these corporate leaders should be applauded for taking steps in the right direction to protect their interests–and those of the people around the world–from the impacts of climate change.

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