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Take heed Canada: Climate risks outlined in new report about U.S. economy won't be stopped at the border


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 11:28 AM - A new independent, non-partisan report is laying it on the line for policy makers and businesses in the United States: taking a cautious, business-as-usual approach - so often favoured by businesses and government in times of risk and uncertainty - is, in fact, radical risk-taking when it comes to climate change, and the U.S. economy faces the potential for significant and widespread disruptions from climate change unless there is immediate action.

The Risky Business Project was launched in October of 2013, by co-chairs Henry M. Paulson, Jr. (former Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush), Michael R. Bloomberg (Mayor of New York City from 2002-2013), and Thomas P. Steyer (former Senior Managing Member of Farallon Capital Management), to investigate the potential economic risks to the United States due to the effects of climate change. With a team of former corporate CEOs, university professors and politicians from both sides of congress to act as their risk committee, they commissioned the Rhodium Group, a risk assessment firm that, according to the NY Times, has done plenty of work for the very lobbyists that oppose action against climate change the most - the oil and gas industry - to gather together experts to pen the 50-plus page report, which was released June 24, 2014.

The various members of the project speak about the reports findings in the video below:


SEE ALSO: Six civilizations destroyed by climate change


According to the science of climate change, the evidence points to the fact that Earth's atmosphere and oceans are warming above the normal levels that we have seen in in recent history, and at a rate that far outpaces anything we've seen in the past 65 million years. The cause? Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, to the tune of billions of metric tons every year. No other potential cause - natural variation, the Sun, water vapour, the urban heat island, or anything else - fits the evidence as well as carbon dioxide. 

In essence, the issue largely comes down to risk management, as the report's conclusion makes clear: 

"When Risk Committee member George Shultz was serving as President Reagan’s Secretary of State in 1987, he urged the President to take action on that decade’s hotly-contested scientific issue: the ozone layer. As Shultz later said in an interview with Scientific American, 'Rather than go and confront the people who were doubting it and have a big argument with them, we'd say to them: Look, there must be, in the back of your mind, at least a little doubt. You might be wrong, so let's all get together on an insurance policy.' That insurance policy became the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international treaty still in effect to this day.

Our goal with the Risky Business Project is not to confront the doubters. Rather, it is to bring American business and government - doubters and believers alike - together to look squarely at the potential risks posed by climate change, and to consider whether it's time to take out an insurance policy of our own."

When it comes to Canada, as has been said before, we are so closely tied to the United States, both economically and geographically, that any adverse effects that befall them will have a direct impact on us as well. At the same time, the effects of climate change do not obey political borders, so the contents of this report, including its message about requiring immediate action to mitigate the risks associated with climate change, directly apply to us too.

The full report, titled Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, is available online (click here), and the full assessment, including technical information from the Rhodium Group, is also available (click here).

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