Is the business jury finally in on climate action?

To the editor:

In September, more than 100 of New Hampshire’s business leaders issued a call for climate action in a report titled, “Weathering Change: N.H. Business Leaders on Risk, Resilience and a Shifting Climate.”

The report’s release was preceded in August by the Citibank report, “Energy Darwinism,” that examined the costs and benefits of a low-carbon future, with the conclusion that taking action to curb carbon and slow warming could save the world economy trillions of dollars.

Specifically, the report concluded that “by comparing the cost of mitigation to the avoided ‘liabilities’ of climate change, we can derive a simple ‘return on investment.’ On a risk-adjusted basis, this implies return of 1- 4% return at the low point in 2021, rising to between 3% and 10% by 2035.”

Also in August, a General Mills executive announced the company’s plan to reduce emissions throughout its entire supply chain because, as one media observer noted, the company recognizes that it “can’t make Wheaties without wheat.”

In early October, representatives from General Mills and other major food innovation companies, such as Unilever, Kellogg, Nestle, Dannon and Stonyfield Farm, urged Congress to support a strong agreement on unified climate action.

Most recently, a 14-company coalition from a spectrum of businesses, including Intel and HP as well as some of the large coal mining and fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP, declared their support for an effective climate agreement and their shared ambition for a 2 degree C future.

These companies have combined revenues of $1.1 trillion and employ more than 1.5 million people. The American Business Act on Climate Pledge now has 81 corporate signers, including Walmart, Coca-Cola, Target and McDonald’s.

New Hampshire-based businessmen Steve Duprey recently noted that “weather events are business risks and they are becoming increasingly significant.” As Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, reported in a recent speech to members of the insurance market of Lloyd’s of London, that since the 1980s, the number of registered weather-related loss events has tripled, and inflation-adjusted insurance losses from these events have increased from an annual average of around $10 billion in the 1980s to around $50 billion over the past decade.

Carney added that “challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come” and that climate change “imposes a cost on future generations that the current generation has no incentive to fix.”

Certainly in business history, a source of pride in the past has always been creating a business that was sustainable over many generations.

With a growing chorus of major business voices – perhaps nearing nine out of 10 in many industry sectors – now saying it’s past time to confront the climate challenge, it does seem that the climate verdict is in.

Mary P. Woodward


Categories: Letters to the Editor