What Happens If We Translate Climate Science for Business?

September 20, 2013
  • Edward Cameron

    Former Managing Director, BSR

Edward Cameron, Director, Partnership Development and Research, BSR

Climate change is unequivocal, accelerating, and human-induced. This was the powerful message in the landmark IPCC Fourth Assessment Report in 2007—the most authoritative and comprehensive expression of the prevailing scientific consensus on climate change. Yet, six years on, too many people continue to reject the immediate and far-reaching challenge of climate change, and too few stakeholders—including business—have developed ambitious and actionable climate strategies.

Part of the reason for this is that the best knowledge on climate change has been written by scientists for other scientists. Too little time has been dedicated to translating climate science into a vocabulary of arguments for business—until now.

The European Climate Foundation and the University of Cambridge are publishing a series of documents synthesizing the most pertinent findings of the upcoming Fifth Assessment Report, due for release in 2014, for specific economic and business sectors, including agriculture, transport, and extractives. The first document, published by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, serves as a primer, explaining the process of compiling the Fifth Assessment Report and its significance.

BSR subscribes to the scientific consensus on climate change. We accept the best available science, which predicts global mean temperature rises of 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century if we continue on our current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. We recognize and are alarmed by what this would mean for access to clean water, sea-level rise, extreme weather events, salinization and acidification of the oceans, and the vitality of biodiversity and ecosystems. We are concerned by the impact that these changes would have on human livelihoods, homes, health, rights, and lives. And we understand that these impacts will challenge business, with profound implications for the natural resources, supply chains, labor force, and consumers upon which companies depend.

Business has the capacity to substantially reduce the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, while also strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities through business strategy decisions, such as investment or energy use, as well as through policy advocacy and by providing leadership in industry peer groups. If we can take existing knowledge and turn it into actionable insights for business, we can build an understanding of the downside risks of climate change and highlight the upside opportunities of an early transition to a low-carbon future. By translating the science of climate change into a business-friendly language, we can help catalyze the creativity, innovation, and leadership of the private sector in addressing this defining global challenge.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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