Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, May 14, 2015
Nearly one-third of businesses surveyed by researchers affiliated with the University of Notre Dame reported they have experienced material impacts from climate events, while more than 70 percent said they are at least "somewhat concerned" that climate change will have a material impact on their operations in the future.
Those findings come from the inaugural "State of Corporate Adaptation Survey," a joint project of Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) and Four Twenty Seven, a private consulting firm focused on climate risk and adaptation. Results were released yesterday at the National Adaptation Forum in St. Louis.
The survey responses, collected in March and April, reveal that water scarcity and political and social instability caused by climate stresses are top concerns for businesses, and that many executives are preparing for increased operational and capital costs associated with climate change adaptation.
A deeper reading into concerns about political and social instability shows that respondents "are aware of the many potential implications of climate change on human systems, which can include civil unrest, public health crises, political upheaval, and displaced populations where weak systems and resource constraints prevail," the report states.
Joyce Coffee, ND-GAIN's managing director, said in a statement that the report "shows climate change is impacting the corporate bottom line, and there is opportunity to increase their preparedness," especially as leaders prepare for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties on climate change in December in Paris.
Experts say the survey's purpose is to advance understanding of corporate best practices, barriers and enablers, as well as strategies to prepare corporations for climate change. The World Economic Forum's latest Global Risk report ranks failure to adapt to climate change as one of the greatest and most likely risks facing governments and the private sector in an era of warming.
Assessing the 'early movers'
The survey netted more than 230 responses from 37 private companies, most of which were headquartered in the United States, but also from Mexico, Europe and Asia. Eight economic sectors were represented among the respondents, ranging from consumer goods and professional services to utilities, financial institutions, health care and technology firms.
Researchers cautioned, however, that the survey should not be viewed as an economy-wide assessment of corporate perspectives on climate change. Rather, it is a "snapshot of how companies most invested in the space -- early adopters and early movers -- think about and act on climate change risk."
The Global Adaptation Index, launched by the Washington, D.C.-based Global Adaptation Institute, was absorbed by Notre Dame's Environmental Change Initiative in 2013.
The open-access index uses data analysis and technology to promote climate adaptation, including identifying places most vulnerable to extreme weather and changing climate, as well as finding real-world solutions that can prevent such changes from becoming disasters. The group also annually ranks 175 countries against 45 indicators of risk and adaptation readiness based on data going back to 1995.
The index has consistently shown that countries in more developed regions of the world -- including Scandinavia, Europe, North America and Australia -- will fare best under climate change, while poor and developing countries in Africa and South Asia face the greatest degrees of risk and vulnerability.
The United States ranked eighth in the latest ND-GAIN index with a score of 78.9 out of 100, behind the United Kingdom and ahead of Germany. The world's highest-ranking country was Norway (82.7), while Chad bottomed the list of ranked countries with a score of 31.6.