Small business owners in coastal states have a unique concern about climate change

The small business owner’s poll released this week by the American Sustainable Business Council has drawn national attention (here and here) primarily for the results showing that 87 percent of small businesses indicated that the effects of climate change could harm their businesses and 64 percent supporting government regulations of carbon emissions from power plants.

But buried in the poll results was another interesting finding.  Concern about climate change-induced coastal flooding and sea level rise was low (18 and 13 percent respectively). The explanation for this poor showing is very simple.  The question asked was “which consequences of climate change could harm your business?”  So unless an inland business owner had direct economic ties to a coast, sea level rise and coastal flooding would not be seen as a threat.

However, respondents in coastal states were about 30 percent more aware that coastal flooding and sea level rise could harm their businesses (23 and 17 percent respectively).  But even using the criteria of coastal states doesn’t truly reflect the concern of businesses along the coast.  Let’s face it, a small business owner in a coastal state but 120 miles inland still might not view coastal flooding and sea level rise resulting from climate change as potentially harmful to their business.

Unfortunately, the poll’s sample size was not large enough for closer geographical analysis.  My prediction is that small business owners within a short drive to the sea would be much more concerned about coastal flooding and sea level rise.  But the results we do have are based on my speculation.  They are very clear.  Small business owners closer to the coast better understand the harm they are threatened with from rising seas and coastal flooding.  That is the reality of climate change to them and it is serious.

Higher energy costs due to climate change are a significant concern (53 percent according to the poll), but most businesses can survive with that.  Having your tourism economy destroyed by disappearing beaches and high tides inundating commercial and residential property, that is a death blow.

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