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Extreme weather’s wake up call for business

Extreme weather’s wake up call for business

Wildfires, floods and heatwaves – once freak weather events – are happening with ever greater frequency, driven by our changing climate. These extreme weather events destroy life, lives and livelihoods, devastating communities across the world. Emily and Andrea from the Net Zero Now team have been reflecting on the impact extreme weather is having in their home countries and on what this means for business.

Emily Tradd, Head of Partnerships and Customer Success at Net Zero Now: 

The Net Zero Now office is always abuzz with discussions of climate change and global events. Over the last few weeks, conversation has been dominated by the extreme weather events that have taken lives and destroyed livelihoods around the world. And for myself and my colleague Andrea, in particular, these events have had a more personal resonance, since our hometowns have experienced the all too real effects of extreme weather.

I recently visited my hometown in New England, USA, and was shocked by the havoc wreaked by storms and heavy rainfall, and the absolute juxtaposition between what was happening there and what Andrea was telling us was taking place in his hometown in Sardinia. 

While temperatures in Sardinia soared to 47°C and wildfires tore through the island, Vermont was hit with a deluge of rain in July, which caused devastating floods, that saw homes, businesses and rail lines destroyed.

For the first time in my life, the basement of my childhood home was flooded, as a prolonged period of drought was followed by record breaking amounts of rain. While we needed to clean up and throw away some stuff, we were far luckier than friends and neighbours whose homes, valuables and businesses were destroyed by this unexpected weather event.

Just weeks later, the US is experiencing wildfires and, simultaneously, flooding caused by glacial melt. Houses along the Medenhall River in Alaska have been swept away due to a release of glacial melt; the increased melting of the glacier very much a direct result of climate change. Meanwhile catastrophic wildfires in Maui are continuing to blaze, resulting in significant loss of life that makes this the deadliest US wildfire in history. 

As someone whose work is centred around helping businesses reduce their climate changing impact, it’s devastating to see the effect that changing weather patterns – driven by climate change - is already having on the planet, on people and businesses. It gives me even greater resolve to keep pushing for businesses to take climate action, whilst also being mindful that they need to take steps to ensure that they are as prepared as they can be for the growing prevalence of extreme weather events. 

As a starter for ten, businesses need to be checking their insurance, particularly if they have a premises on the ground floor. They also need to prepare for the worst, be that the possibility of flooding – lifting equipment off the floor for example and storing back-up documents at remote locations, for example – or the likelihood of extreme heat – installing air conditioning, ensuring refrigeration and other equipment has the resilience to withstand higher temperatures and making sure that windows are well shaded, for example. Adjusting working hours, increasing remote working options and providing more breaks for workers might all be considerations a business might need to think about in order that it can keep operating through periods of extreme heat. 

Even if businesses are not impacted now or directly, the pace at which our weather is changing means that weather, with all its unpredictability, is a risk that almost all businesses need to face into. If there was ever a business case for investing in climate action, let the experience of my hometown, Andrea’s home town and thousands more around the world, be the clarion call.

Businesses everywhere need to act now and develop coherent climate strategies that prioritise dramatic greenhouse gas emissions reduction and a commitment to achieving Net Zero. We are already seeing the effects of our changing climate, but there is still time for us to work together as businesses to slow down its devastating impact. We are here to help. Visit www.netzeronow.org

Pic: Cagliari, Sardinia Italy.