The High Cost of Climate Change: A Warning to Businesses, Investors, and Homeowners

by Reynard Loki
Jul 22, 2014 4:00 PM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs


"Risky Business," a new report led by Mike Bloomberg and Henry Paulson, aims to frame climate change in economic terms. Will it make Americans care more about the issue?

(Justmeans/3BL Media) -- So much of how climate change is reported on and understood is through numbers. Here are a few.

350: Safe upper limit, in parts per million, for atmospheric CO2.{1}

401.3: Measured atmospheric CO2 in June 2013.{2}

19: Amount in centimeters the world's oceans have risen between 1901 and 2010.{3}

48.8: Predicted maximum sea level rise in centimeters, at New York City, by mid-century.{4}

3.7: Amount in Celsius of extra global surface warming we will likely get between 2081 and 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions stay roughly on their current path.{5}

40: Percentage rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between the years 1750 and 2011.{6}

129.2: Temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in California’s Death Valley on June 30, setting a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth for that month.{7}

257,000: Acres of land burned by the California Rim Fire, the biggest wildfire in Sierra’s recorded history, caused by a number of factors, including drought and abnormal seasons.{8}

5.10: Minimum annual extent of Arctic sea ice in millions of square kilometers in 2013, which is 1.12 million km2 (18%) below the 1981-2010 average.{9}

90: Number of global companies that together account for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.{10}

132: Number of countries that walked out of the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw in protest over rich nations’ refusal to entertain the idea of compensation for extreme climate events.{11}

97: Percent consensus in the international scientific community that climate change is real and very likely caused by human actions.{12}

25: Percent of American public that is "solidly skeptical" of global warming.{13}


With all the PPMs and degrees and inches and centimeters and percentages, one kind of number has generally been overlooked: dollars. When the temperatures and sea level rise and the storms and wildfires become more frequent and powerful, there are human and non-human deaths to be sure, but there is also a high economic price to be paid for inaction on the climate front.

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Image: Manhattan suffered a widespread power outage during Hurricane Sandy. Credit: "Sandy Poweroutage 1" by Hybirdd - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. He has been published in business and technical journals and has written three books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an eco-thriller that is being adapted for the big screen. RP is a professional engineer – and a prolific inventor, with 50 patents, numerous awards, and several commercial products. He is president of Rain Mountain LLC and is an active environmental advocate in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. In addition to Justmeans, he writes for Triple Pundit, ThomasNet News, and Energy Viewpoints, occasionally contributing to Mechanical Engineering, Strategy + Business, and Huffington Post. You can follow RP on Twitter, @RPSiegel.