As climate change is integrated more and more into the planning of corporate opportunities and risks, the Fourth National Climate Assessment released last week may be a valuable resource to assess how climate change may impact your plants or business strategy on the horizon.

The assessment, which outlines potential region-by-region impacts from climate change, which can be used as a tool to assist companies in understanding the range of possible climate impact. Drafted by experts within the federal government and led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the report provides a summary of the science and modeling used to predict changes in the United States’ climate over the next century, including providing certain economic impact assessments and estimates.

Four modeled scenarios with varying ranges of temperature increases were used in the assessment and impacts were qualified by confidence ranges and likelihood of the suggested impacts. The report discusses population changes, economic changes, and geographic changes that may result from climate change.

Containing a massive amount of both elementary and highly sophisticated information and model results, the assessment may prove to be extremely useful to both public and private companies to plan business growth and opportunities and to identify risks to current business models. The data may be specific enough to identify potential mitigation and adaptation actions for specific facilities to consider implementing.

Three Highlighted Themes

The following themes are indicative of those found throughout the assessment.

  1. “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.” Summary Finding No. 2.
  2. “Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connection to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.” Summary Finding No. 3.
  3. “Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.” Summary Finding No. 10.

Midwest Adaptation and Mitigation

According to the report, while climate change might be easier to highlight on the coasts, the specific impacts of higher heat on farming must be expected and adaptation and mitigation can help. For example, the assessment notes that adding buffer zones at agricultural farm fields in the Midwest can minimize damage and soil loss caused by extreme precipitation events.

Other actionable insights from the report directed to the Midwest include:

  • Promoting biodiversity can minimize the impacts of an increasing insect population and diseases that strike a particular species of plants.
  • Planned development growth can decrease habitat and biodiversity loss as well as control storm-related damage.
  • Planning development and agricultural use can impede the further degradation of the Great Lakes, which is experiencing higher temperatures, lower amounts of winter ice and earlier temperature stratification.

Overall, the assessment recommends adoption of mitigation and adaptation plans in the near future to avoid the most deleterious effects of climate change.

For more information on the assessment or how to incorporate climate change planning into your business strategy, please contact ­­­­­­any member of the Schiff Hardin Environmental Group.