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Okay, So We Gonna Talk About Bru...Climate Risk?*

A traffic sign in a flood, transposed with binary code.

We need to ensure that data and analy­sis gath­ered from sci­en­tists and the pri­vate sec­tor does­n’t just sit on the shelf. It needs to be in the hands of pol­i­cy mak­ers, investors, and most impor­tant­ly, local com­mu­ni­ties that are already bear­ing the brunt of this all.”

– Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mau­ra Healey


In a series of dis­cus­sions last month, experts, advo­cates, reg­u­la­tors, and ana­lysts took a deep dive into the data that is cur­rent­ly avail­able about cli­mate risk, the way that data is being used now, and the wide need for more data and information. 

As the speak­ers explained, the data to assess phys­i­cal risk from cli­mate change is avail­able from places like Wood­well Cli­mate Research Cen­ter and First Street. But deci­sion­mak­ers are still too focused on using this infor­ma­tion as a reac­tionary tool rather than for long-term planning.

Demand for infor­ma­tion about near-term cli­mate impacts has sky­rock­et­ed. Yet, most loca­tion-spe­cif­ic datasets and cli­mate pro­jec­tions are expen­sive and our of reach of small munic­i­pal­i­ties and orga­ni­za­tions. What we need is a Nation­al Cli­mate Ser­vice — a cen­tral­ized hub of nation­al cli­mate infor­ma­tion and adap­ta­tion sup­port — to pro­vide this pub­lic good.

– Madi­son Con­don, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor, Boston Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law
In addi­tion, while many pub­licly list­ed com­pa­nies are already mea­sur­ing and dis­clos­ing their emis­sions and cli­mate risks, they need a process for dis­clos­ing the infor­ma­tion that is more trans­par­ent, acces­si­ble, and streamlined.

To that end, the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion has been explor­ing new dis­clo­sure rules to pro­vide investors and oth­er mar­ket play­ers infor­ma­tion about cli­mate impacts that affect their bot­tom lines. The Com­mis­sion will con­sid­er propos­ing changes at a meet­ing next week. State-lev­el reg­u­la­tors also have tools to man­date cor­po­rate gov­er­nance struc­tures and dis­clo­sure rules that could help steer invest­ment away from com­pa­nies that are ill-pre­pared for cli­mate change and toward much-need­ed invest­ment in cli­mate solutions.


Meeting Alert
SEC Meeting on Climate-Related Disclosures
Monday, March 21, 11:00 a.m. ET


Mean­while, the data is need­ed urgent­ly at the local lev­el. Cli­mate change has already caused irre­versible dam­age in many places. Robin Bro­nen, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Alas­ka Insti­tute for Jus­tice, explained that Alas­ka Native vil­lages and com­mu­ni­ties have had to make the impos­si­bly dif­fi­cult deci­sion to relo­cate from their homes in the face of cat­a­stroph­ic ero­sion. Extreme weath­er events and oth­er effects of cli­mate change are being felt across the coun­try as illus­trat­ed by Dr. Jen­nifer Jurado’s descrip­tion of adap­ta­tion work being done in Broward Coun­ty, Florida.

Basic data and mea­sure­ment are the bare min­i­mum to cure an ill­ness. … We still have to do the work with that infor­ma­tion and that means man­dates for cli­mate solu­tions. So there are three steps, there’s the mea­sure­ment, there’s the dis­clo­sure, and then there’s a reduc­tion. With­out the third step, we are still on team don’t look up.

– Mar­i­lyn Waite, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Cli­mate Finance Fund


Resilience is not fair, cli­mate risk is not fair, dis­as­ter recov­ery is not fair, and all of these sys­tems of deal­ing with cli­mate change solu­tions are actu­al­ly fur­ther­ing cli­mate injus­tice,” explained Heather McTeer Toney, Envi­ron­men­tal Defense Fund’s Vice Pres­i­dent of Com­mu­ni­ty Engage­ment and for­mer may­or of Greenville, Mis­sis­sip­pi. She then urged the audi­ence to tru­ly lis­ten to the sci­ence and com­mu­ni­ty experts in order cre­ate a more effi­cient and equi­table process that saves our econ­o­my, our ecosys­tems, and our lives at the same time.”

What did this series show us? Cli­mate impacts are expen­sive and exac­er­bate inequities. Banks are already requir­ing com­pa­nies to stress test their assets against cli­mate sce­nar­ios. Many com­pa­nies are already dis­clos­ing their emis­sions. The data need­ed to show local impacts exists. The busi­ness case for resilience also exists. There is much work to do.

To read more about the top­ics cov­ered, see our list of resources here.

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* All of You.” ENCAN­TO (Jared Bush, Byron Howard dir., 2021).