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Published on June 30th, 2014 | by Adam Johnston


Climate Change Is Risky Business: Report

Climate change is Risky Business, according to a bi-partisan report released recently.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire renewable energy advocate Tom Steyer, and George W. Bush’s former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson commissioned the report. Risky Business is similar to Nicholas Stern’s groundbreaking analysis in 2006, which discussed the economics of climate change, but this has more focus on the US. Its conclusions provide stark warnings for various regions and sectors.


Nashville Floods in 2010 via WikiCommons

“Our economy is vulnerable to an overwhelming number of risks from climate change,” said Paulson in a statement. “These risks include the potential for significant federal budget liabilities, since many businesses and property owners turn to the federal government as the insurer of last resort.”

Coastal areas will feel the financial sting. Storm costs will increase $2 billion to $3.5 billion annually within the next 15 years. Add annual hurricane costs of up to $7.3 billion, and the yearly bill would go up to $35 billion. By 2050, current coastal property value of $66 to $106 billion could be under water, if emissions continue unchecked. By the end of the century, the analysis projects it to cost the US $238 to $507 billion.

Agriculture will see steep losses, too. Midwestern and southern areas will see sharp losses in crop yields of 10% within 5–25 years. These include: corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. There is also a one-in-twenty chance these crops will see a 20% decline in yields, without making any adaptation plans. By the end of the century, yield losses could reach 50% to 70%.

It’s anticipated by mid-century that Americans will see 27–50 more 95°F days then in the past thirty years. Also Risky Business expects the Southeast, Southwest, and upper Midwest to see many months of 95°F days annually.

Extreme heat will impact outdoor labor industries. Some regions could see a labor productivity loss of 3%, namely the Southeast. Agriculture, utility maintenance, and landscaping are the industries most vulnerable, the report said.

Energy demand could also spike upwards to 95 gigawatts within the next 5–25 years, as the need for more cooling rises. That is approximately 200 natural gas or coal-fired power plants. Consumers and businesses could expect to pay an extra $12 billion annually from the upsurge in energy use.

Climate Economics: Understanding the Risks

As deniers continue to battle the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are contributing to climate change, attempts to understand climate change through risk management is now being used more often.

Economic reports on climate change, including The Stern Report, and now Risky Business, offer governments and businesses the tools necessary to not only better understand the science through economics, but offer guidance in mitigation and adaptation action plans. For example, insurance agencies know a warming world will have dramatic impacts on their pocketbooks, which will get passed on to consumers.

However, by understanding the risks, nations and businesses are becoming more aware of what needs to be done. Countries like China are leading the way in renewable energy investment. Tesla, SolarCity, SunPower, Yingli, Sungevity, Ecova, and many others are helping cleantech become mainstream with their innovative products.

Climate change will always be Risky Business. Considering the economic hazards will give a more concrete roadmap in solving this pressing issue.

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About the Author

Is currently studying at the School of the Environment Professional Development program in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto. Adam graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications. Adam also writes for Solar Love and also owns his own part time tax preparation business. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst, and is currently sharpening his skills as a renewable energy writer. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or at

  • Matt

    The US government should double flood insurance costs, and not give any to new construction in coastal of flood prone areas. If private insurance will not offer insurance then the government should not. It just lets people build where we know the home will be destroyed. They also need to raise crop insurance costs. The current program is step up to “promote” risky behavior. We know loses are coming, so need to raise rates now to cover those costs.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think people who have built already should get flood insurance until they are “wiped out” the first time. They are not totally responsible for climate change. If it floods where it hasn’t previously, make them whole. Then it’s up to them to rebuild in the same spot without federal flood insurance or move to higher ground.

      No flood insurance policies for any new construction in the five hundred, thousand, ? year flood zone.

  • Rick Kargaard

    One of the basics considerations of good business is risk management. This includes a risk/rewards assessment. In other words, higher risk requires higher potential rewards.
    One way to manage risk is to pass it on to others such as insurance companies or by limiting warranties.
    A much better way is to find safer locations and to build to withstand more extreme events.
    Despite all this, I still see people building in high risk coastal areas and to minimum building code standards. It seems that people do not believe in the big bad wolf or they believe that government will bail them out.
    If there is even a small risk of significant climate change consequences, then consumers, business, and agriculture should be preparing now as there seems very little chance of stopping the course of events. Our only hope seems to be be to slow change slightly.
    Many improvements to buildings can improve weather resistance considerably at low cost. They can also improve energy efficiency greatly. The same applies for transportation and agriculture.
    The risk just needs to be recognized and the rewards need to be obvious.

  • B McLaurine

    China is “leading the way” in renewable energy ? They are building coal plants as fast as they can.
    Antarctic ice is at record levels. New temperature data shows the USA has cooled during the last 10 years. When will you guys stop lying to us ?

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