Though some US municipalities are beginning to address it, climate change adaptation or how an entity will cope with the likely incremental increases in temperatures and precipitation (both greater rainfall and droughts) is not discussed much in board meetings or other strategic sessions. The trends are real and no longer something that can be delayed to a future generation. A recent Weather Channel survey showed twice as many all-time high temperatures compared to all-time lows. Certainly the news is full of stories of greater intensity hurricanes, tornados, and storms occurring more often.
But there is action on the global front about climate change adaptation. The Global Adaptation Institute has developed a Global Adaptation Index (GAIN). The U.S. is ranked 8th in the world with a particularly high “readiness” quotient because we already have a well-developed business infrastructure. Many countries that are smaller, more geographically vulnerable, or have fewer safeguards have a much lower GAIN ranking.
Industries and companies are addressing adaptation in future plans – some to strategize to minimize disruptions and some as an opportunity for enhanced business. Here are two examples from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Network Rail, which overseas railroad operations in the UK, studied the operational impacts of increased heat and precipitation and issued a report last year. They identified several issues in the future that would need to be addressed, such as employee and passenger heat stress (reducing the former’s productivity and requiring more frequent railway efforts for the latter); an increase in railroad track buckling (requiring more frequent speed restrictions throughout the system); and increasing frequency of storm surges and flooding (risking the efficacy of certain trackside equipment and damaging stations and tracks and embankments and their equipment). With this information, Network Rail will identify particular regions of concern and develop strategies to reduce losses in these catastrophic cases (i.e., raise certain equipment above ground).
BASF has been conducting research in several areas related to climate change and is slowly introducing new products, such as crops that can adapt to more extremes in temperature and rainfall, a polymer that can help a dike resist the forces of braking water, and a polymer that can sit in the soil and absorb, hold on to, and gradually release rainwater in regions that get little rain, but get high volumes when it comes. These and other products will eventually be commercialized to help many countries and individuals adapt to climate change and also help their business bottom line.
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