Haiyan, extreme weather, costs

A digital composite of Typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines, using im

A digital composite of typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines, using images captured by the geostationary satellites of the Japan Meteorological Agency and EUMETSAT

The tropic storm Haiyan billed as biggest ever to make landfall sends 300kph/195mph winds and five-metre/15 foot waves slamming into the Philippine islands. Haiyan is believed to be stronger than the world’s previous strongest-recorded tropical cyclone, hurricane Camille, which was recorded in the US at 290kph/190mph in 1969.

At this stage only the sheer blunt devastation is known for certain. Thousands of lives and livelihoods have been lost, for sure. Some climate and marine scientists are proposing a relationship between CO2, water temperature warming and on-effects such as increase in intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

Should we not speak about the cost of climate changes? Not least as good management to protect long-term profitability, to minimise risk to the enterprise, and to preserve the environment? If anything we need greater prudence in managing risk and uncertainty, particularly where climatic changes may be sudden and irreversible….

To propose a strategy of either ‘denial or wait, see and adapt’ – in light of current empirical evidence and the imbalance of expert advice – is a serious breach of fiduciary responsibility, both corporately and nationally.

Given that credible climate scientists have been sounding urgent warnings for some time, the surprise is that there is virtually no one addressing the real risks. To change investment priorities far more extensively – this is the strategic implication of climate change.

The oil-coal-gas businesses and the conservative interests of governments, media, and investors have combined to have a horrendous intransigence when it comes to climate risk management. Often those groups co-join in transnational interest, fluidly streaming above the boundaries of nations and regulatory regimes. It is a post-heroic, post-national world, to be sure. China is an unsurprising nation standout, a multi-year strategic plan in train, investing heavily in green tech to transition away from CO2 industries – responding to the huge short-term cost evident in their visible pollution, environmental degradation, and health costs.

Waiting until it is too late and then being forced to do something in a panic is not risk management or responsible corporate governance. The reality is far more urgent. You simply can’t do business in a world with 4C+ of warming. At the very least, shareholder value will drastically decline. If you think that you and yours can be immunized against what climate change means, then maybe ‘negative shareholder value’ is the language you need in order to get motivated…

Pity, that familiar human bias toward the short-term, the less-complex, one’s kin and the narrow-self.

UPDATED – a day later, with even less protection now, those who survived Haiyan in the Philippines expect another tropic storm.