Climate change growing concern for businesses

Growing scientific evidence of global warming is becoming an increasingly urgent priority for business leaders, a report from The Conference Board has shown this week.

The report states that “governments and markets are likely to act” on expanding scientific evidence, and perceptions that climate change have become “an urgent priority that must be addressed through a variety of measures.”

Leading author of the report and environmental expert at The Conference Board, Dr Charles Bennett, said: “Given the increasing costs of, and uncertainties surrounding, the reliability of traditional energy sources and growing pressure for higher standards of citizenship and contributions to global sustainability, businesses that ignore the debate over climate change do so at their peril.”

Corporate boards will also increasingly be expected to evaluate potential risks associated with mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions or of actual climate changes, according to the report.

Don Kennedy, editor of Science Magazine, said that it was inevitable that businesses would now begin to take the concept of global warming more seriously: “We are in the middle of a large uncontrolled experiment on the only planet we have.”

A number of ecological shifts that suggest widespread climate change were cited by the report, including ocean warming and melting mountain glaciers, causing sea levels to rise, concluding that these trends were expected to continue. It also indicated that Spring is now arriving days earlier than it did a century ago.

“The role of climate change in the world’s recent ecological problems, including expanding wildfires and increases in invasive plant and animal species, is still not clear,” said Dr Chris Fields of the Carnegie Institute. “But there appears to be solid evidence that warming can exacerbate negative impacts of human actions such as forest clearing.”

Moreover, leading world scientists, including Professor Daniel Schrag of Harvard University, stated that the earth currently seemed to be heading for its hottest period in around 55 million years, as present levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest for 400,000 years.

The challenges facing business are uncertain, due to a lack of complete scientific knowledge about global warming and its effects, according to John Browne, the group chief executive of BP plc, but he says that this is typical to human progress.

“Business is accustomed to making decisions in conditions of considerable uncertainty, applying its experience and skills to areas of activity where much is unknown,” Mr Browne said. “That is why it will play a vital role in meeting the challenge of climate change, and why the contribution it is already making is so encouraging.”

He added that the report was vital because it underlined the scientific realities of global warming and the urgent need for businesses to take action now.

By Jane Kettle

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