Response to Climate Skeptics

Organizations around the world are adapting to climate change, lending credibility to climate science. These organizations buy, study, and use the best available science to inform their multi-billion dollar decisions and strategies. They not only have access to all the science in the public domain, but have commissioned and kept confidential additional science that gives them competitive advantages. These organizations find climate science convincing enough to change business as usual. Behavior and investment are the ultimate indicators of being convinced.  From their behaviors, we can infer that these organizations calculated that climate is changing.

Conversations with skeptics can be challenging.  But an honest skeptic should admit that they have less capacity to understand climate science than do these organizations.  An honest skeptic should admit that brutally logical analysis of best available information motivates these organizations.  An honest skeptic should admit that these organizations are adapting to climate change.  An honest skeptic should therefore admit that predictions of climate change are reliable and valid enough to warrant additional meaningful responses.

Examples of how well-run, well-resourced, successful organizations are adapting to climate change include:

–       Veolia, the world’s largest water company, has put in place investments and operational changes responding to increased water scarcity and variability attributed to climate change

–       Multi-national insurance companies are canceling flood insurance, re-calibrating hurricane premiums, creating private fire protection services to for high value properties at risk from increased forest fires, and suing cities for not adequately adapting to a changing climate. [new references: insurance companies ;General Mills Policy on Climate]

–       Monsanto and other global agriculture corporations are finding ways to profit from climate change by providing information about changing growing conditions, developing new crops that thrive in changed climate, and diversifying risk caused by less predictable weather. Wineries are relocating or changing grape varieties because warming temperatures make delicate grapes harder to grow and change their taste.

–       Deutsche Bank, Schroeder, and other multinational investment firms are creating climate change investment funds that profit from a changed climate, such as purchasing farms in Canada and Russia that will become more productive and water resources that become more scarce as temperatures rise.

–       Water utilities are looking for new ways to provide adequate water when the 100-year drought happens much more frequently.

–       The US Department of Defense identifies social unrest and resource uncertainty resulting from a changing climate to be one of the key threats to national security.

All these actions can be categorized as climate adaptation, not mitigation.  Mitigation is much harder because it involves collaboration and coordination across many actors.  Adaptation is a calculated response to opportunities and risks forecast by climate science.  If the science is convincing enough to motivate adaptation, skeptics should stand out of the way of mitigation efforts, which have been calculated to be much less costly than adaptation to business profits and human progress.

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Hull is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability http://cligs.vt.edu/
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