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FEATURE: A changing climate – implications for business

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The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and the Programme for Sustainability Leadership and European Climate Foundation have produced a guide to the IPCC’s report on the physical science of climate change – which they present in bite-sized chunks for business leaders. Joanna Benn of the European Climate Foundation introduces the project and shares the team’s latest resources.

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system”, said Thomas Stocker of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when he released the first instalment of the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report on Friday, 27 September in Stockholm.

The IPCC’s report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis is the most detailed assessment of climate science ever. More than 2,000 pages of scientific consensus make clear that climate change is real, that it is happening now and that human influence on the changing climate is more certain than ever.

The impacts of climate change will present growing challenges for the governments of the world – and unforeseen risks for the global business community. Rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers and acidifying seawater will all have direct impacts on many industrial sectors.

To help the business community better understand the implications of climate change, the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and the Programme for Sustainability Leadership, supported by the European Climate Foundation, have published: “Climate Change: Actions, Trends and Implications for Business” This distils the key findings of the AR5 report into an easily readable document which retains all the scientific accuracy of the original.

Encouraging industry to act on ‘the challenge of the century’

The challenge and transition of a changing climate will affect business and the economy, presenting both challenges and opportunities. Policy-relevant information will be used by governments to set climate change policies that may affect businesses worldwide. It also represents an opportunity to update business strategies in line with the latest information on how climate change will affect natural resources, operations and infrastructure.

The Fifth Assessment Report or ‘AR5’ adds thousands of new studies to the body of evidence on climate change. There is a special focus on potential impacts relevant to key economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, transport, infrastructure and industry. The Working Group II report covering impacts and vulnerabilities to climate change is due to be published in March 2014. Impacts may include a heightened risk of coastal flooding, decreased agricultural production, changes in the quantity and quality of water, greater frequency or severity of extreme weather, resource and material shortages and disruptions to essential operations.

The Working Group III report on climate change mitigation will be published in April 2014. This section of the Fifth Assessment Report will focus on options for tackling climate change by preventing or reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, or by enhancing activities that remove such gases from the atmosphere. The Judge Business School, Cambridge Programme for Sustainability and European Climate Foundation will release follow-on guides for the business community from mid -April onwards; these will be additional, easy-to use guides tailored to individual sectors.

Can you help disseminate this month’s key report and the infographic?

By spreading “Climate Change: Actions, Trends and Implications for Business” as far and wide as possible, we hope to create a common understanding of the climate threat among the business community, thus encouraging industry to act on arguably the most significant challenge of the 21st century. We encourage you to share our open-source publications in your business networks, post them online or use them for presentations and at events. These resources are available under a Creative Commons licence, which means you can use them freely for any promotion of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.

The full guide and infographic are available for download here.

This is the second in a series of documents aimed at helping a business audience understand the IPCC reports. The first in the series, published on September 13th, can be found here.

For more information on the project, email AR5@europeanclimate.org.

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