Director of Erb Institute | Business for Sustainability Among Experts Suggesting Climate Assessment Improvements

Erb faculty director, Joe Arvai among experts recently published in IOPscience, suggesting that a reframing is necessary to provide actionable information for improved business sustainability outcomes.
Aug 29, 2017 4:00 PM ET

Originally posted on IOPscience

Published 21 July 2017 • © 2017 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd 
Environmental Research LettersVolume 12Number 8

[Adapted from article abstract] Climate change is increasingly being framed as a risk management problem. It is characterized by multiple intersecting and uncertain future hazards, that are expected to unfold over a very large range of spatial and temporal scales, and whose probabilities may be difficult to quantify.

Traditional climate change assessments have not been designed to deliver the kind of actionable information decision-makers need—and are asking for—to prioritize and manage climate change risks (Kirchhoff et al 2013, NAS 2016).  As such, scientists are proposing a shift in the objectives and implementation of climate change assessments—from making what amounts to a general case for 'action,' to characterizing specific risks to help people develop, select, carry out, and monitor specific actions that ultimately have greater benefits than costs. This paper suggests three improvements to the process of conducting climate change assessments to better characterize risk and inform risk management actions.

Despite their technical sophistication, past major climate assessments have focused on summarizing scientific understanding of, and uncertainties about, expected changes in the climate system resulting from continued greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses, governments and federal agencies, by contrast, need to understand how climate change may interfere with their plans and compromise their objectives, so they can adapt existing policies and adopt new strategies to stay on track—whether to protect life, health, and well-being, sustain economic growth, preserve natural resources, ensure continued performance of critical infrastructure, or maintain national security.

Continue reading in IOPscience

Joseph Árvai is the director of the Erb Institute | Business for Sustainability at the University of Michigan. He can be reached on Twitter at @DecisionLab.