Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County Board Chair and former chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, is the owner of GreenMark, a leading environmental marketing agency. GreenMark, the originator of the Minnesota Twins/Pentair Rain Water Recycle partnership, is currently finalizing the state's largest solar energy installation while delivering sustainable results on behalf of leading brands, nonprofits, public agencies and the public.

The risky business of climate change

Posted by: Mark Andrew Updated: June 27, 2014 - 4:17 PM

Let's see, the Far Right is still squawking about human caused Climate Change being The Big Lie of the Left. Yet, the resistance of conservative institutions to climate science is crumbling almost before our eyes.

First the military astonished its staunchest conservative allies several years ago by warning of geopolitical destabilization, mass squalor and disease as a result of a heating planet. The military is today sounding a quickening drumbeat foretelling even more dire consequences.

Some of the colorful gadflies of climate denial have also abandoned their perches. I've heard religious conservatives seem to accept and welcome the reality of Climate, albeit as a perverse moment of reckoning preceding the Rapture.

Pillars of the conservative Wall Street community are whistling a new tune on the impact of global warming. Henry Paulsen, George W. Bush's Secretary of the Treasury said, "We're staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our climate and the economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked."

Another nail was pounded into the climate coffin of deniers earlier this week when a bi-partisan group of former politicians, political appointees and captains of industry published and released the report, "Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the U.S."

What makes the report important is its first-of-a-kind effort to combine the best projections of local climate changes across the country with empirical data forcasting the fiscal impact on key sectors of the economy.

In other words, when it comes to global warming impacts, it's the economy, stupid.

The report is more than sobering.

The signature effects of climate change are sea level rises and extreme heat and humidity increases. Using mid-range estimates of sea level changes if no action is taken, the report finds by 2050 $66-106 billion of coastal real estate will be below sea level. That means people taking out 30 year mortgages today on property located in vulnerable areas will be under water--not just on their mortgages, but the buildings themselves will be submerged.

The heat and humidity indexes are even more alarming. In the Midwest, without action crop yields are going to drop precipitously in the next 5-25 years due to a possible tripling of unbearable hot days, and could top 75% less yield in many areas as we approach the end of the century. This from the breadbasket of the world.

This economic analysis was not the product of a bunch of doomsday prophets. George Schultz, President Reagan's Secretary of State; moderate former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe; "W"'s Henry Paulsen; former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who helped fund the report; and Greg Page, the Executive Chairman of Cargill all had a role in the findings.

It is good that new climate studies are spotlighting the economic toll of climate change because it is likely to move business to do more, sooner.

Indeed, the conclusions of the report assert the pathway to staunching the flow of red ink as a result of a climate-caused calamity is with immediate action.

"Risky Business" was a brave stand to take by revered conservatives who have plenty to lose within their own peer groups. What awaits them on the cocktail circuit is probably gentle needling by some colleagues and outright contempt of others. 

But the numbers don't lie. It is in the economics that we find the business argument for dealing quickly with the problem.

This report seems to be saying that action now to slow the rate of global warming is "an insurance policy". Taking action now on Climate is a form of insurance that will deliver a strong return in saved costs, healthier markets and supply chain reliability into the future.

Maybe it is just expensive insurance. But based on the content of their report, Risky Business is a call to prevent a sustained melt-down of the American economy.

And that is the bottom line.

 

 

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