Businesses and politicians must plan for a future affected by climate change

This was published by the Carbon Disclosure Project, in May 2005

Climate change will be the dominant issue of the 21st Century. There is now consensus within the scientific community that not only is the problem caused by human activities but that it is more serious and more urgent than was first thought. Climate change has already begun but we may not yet have crossed irreversible thresholds that mean that our security and prosperity can no longer be guaranteed.

Climate change is uniquely a problem that affects literally every single person on the planet. There are many of us who lead lives disfigured by ignorance and poverty but there are also many who lead lives of educated affluence; armed conflict renders life desperate for many millions of people, but many more millions lead lives of peaceful satisfaction. A changing climate will expose individuals, communities and societies to new and wholly unfamiliar patterns of risk.

It also presents new risks and opportunities for the business community. The prospects of every single business on earth, from the smallest and most local to the gigantic and most global, will be impacted by a changing climate. Few companies have given much thought to how they will be affected and even fewer are well equipped to devise the strategies to manage the risks or take the opportunities. Corporate responses to date, such as they are, have mostly taken the form of measuring emissions of greenhouse gases and, in even fewer cases, setting targets for their reduction.

This will not do.

About tomburke

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, and an Environmental Policy Adviser (part time) to Rio Tinto plc. He is a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever and a Trustee of the Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool.
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