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Climate change and the business reporter

November 14, 2017

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Climate change is full of stories for business journalists. (Image by "robynm" via Pixabay, CCO Creative Commons)
Climate change isn’t just a topic for science and environmental writers. It’s full of stories for business journalists. (Image by “robynm” via Pixabay, CCO Creative Commons)

Climate change is an enormous topic for science writers. But those changes don’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t modify climate, sea level, storm severity and other systemic shifts without impacting everything humans experience. That includes business.

If you begin to look ahead and anticipate what might happen to companies in your purview, climate change open new topics and novel way to cover old ones. Here are some of the potential impacts on business.

Real estate and markets

Climate change will likely result in increased sea levels. According to the United Nations, average global sea level rise is predicted to be 24 – 30 cm (9.4 – 11.8 inches) by 2065, and 40– 63 cm (1.3 – 2 feet) by 2100. That kind of dramatic increase will change national physical boundaries and obliterate entire island nations. Large companies have offices around the world, including places at very low elevations, such as New York, Bangkok, Mumbai and Shanghai. You can see how seriously they take climate change by inquiring about real estate strategies. Have they considered relocating?

The same consideration applies to markets into which companies sell. Changes in boundaries could reduce territories. Populations moving from advancing waters could affect where and how companies market their goods and services.

Supply chains and logistics

Many U.S. companies outsource their manufacturing and assembly operations. For logistical reasons, factories are frequently located close to shipping ports. Rising waters could mean that industries including consumer electronics, light manufacturing and apparel might find themselves out of business or needing to move. Either would likely mean higher prices for consumers, as expenses are passed along.

Logistics also become a nightmare if ports close, important roads and railways are breached, and airplanes cannot land. This is true whether a company wants to distribute products, provide on-premises customer service or have employees travel for sales meetings.

R&D

Climatic changes could have an impact on the operating environment for equipment, chemical compounds, formulations, processes and other items. Increased heat might require higher levels of cooling for computer equipment. Because research can easily take years to go from concept to commercially available product (in pharmaceuticals alone, ten years is average to bring a new drug to market), planning has to begin far enough in advance for anticipated results to be available when they’re needed.

Regulation and compliance

Regardless of the current state of regulations, the unrelenting march of climate change makes it inevitable that politicians will eventually have to act. Reporters can look at current suggested frameworks and more stringent measures as they develop, and examine what it will take for companies to comply and how much it would eventually cost.

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