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Climate change projections are dire, but it’s not time for business to give up

Powering the Bottom Line

Barry Vesser is the chief operating officer at The Climate Center. In 2010 he started and led The Climate Center Business Network. He currently manages the center’s policy team, the statewide effort in partner collaboration, and assists with the organization’s strategic planning and program development.

Read previous columns.

“Code Red”- that’s what the head of the United Nations called their latest climate science report.

It warns that humans have “unequivocally” warmed the planet, causing “widespread and rapid” changes to Earth’s oceans, ice, and land surface. It also provides further evidence of the links between climate change and extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods, drought, record-breaking heat, and wildfires.

The report, with contributions from scientists around the world concludes that dangerous climate impacts are happening sooner than predicted, we have less time to forestall dramatically worse impacts, and the consequences of not acting immediately to address this crisis would be grave.

It is a daunting read, but the reality is that we know what we need to do to address the climate crisis.

The solutions are at our fingertips, and current technologies can go a long way towards reducing climate pollution at the scale needed.

But these solutions require political will and much greater ambition from elected officials and business leaders. Businesses must start supporting bold climate policy because it secures the stability of the environment and the market that they need to thrive.

Climate scientists are clear that every bit of additional climate pollution matters and every fraction of a degree increase matters.

Allowing global temperatures to continue rising will exact a huge toll on human life, natural systems, and our economy. It’s also clear that there’s a big difference between 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius, the upper limit of temperature increase that nations agreed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report finds that we’re likely to cross the 1.5 degrees threshold much sooner than previously expected, and California may cross it sooner than the rest of the world.

Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the University of California San Diego, predicts that California will cross 1.5 degrees of warming as soon as 2027, leading to a potential “dustbowl” that could devastate our agricultural economy, and threaten food security well beyond California.

That scenario is dire, but it’s not a given. So what will it take?

A mobilization of government, business, and the civic community. Business has a key role to play in driving innovation, investment, and policy in the public interest, especially at the state level. California, as the world’s fifth largest economy, can set the standard once again for equitable and accelerated climate action with your help.

The North Bay has been a leader in the climate and sustainability movement. Many businesses here are already pioneering innovative solutions to the climate crisis. These include SolarCraft, TerraVerde Energy, Blue Planet, Ygrene Energy Fund, Synergy Solar, and Sonoma Clean Power to name a few. They deserve our support.

Many more are doing great jobs reducing their company’s carbon footprint. SOMO Village, Straus Family Creamery, Jackson Family Wines, Recology, Amy’s Kitchen, Redwood Hill Farm, Hobo Wines, and Soiland Company come to mind. They deserve our business.

These efforts are laudable and should be replicated by every business in the region, but even that won’t be enough. As the UN report makes clear, we all have to do much, much more.

For businesses to truly lead the way to a climate-safe future, they have to go the extra mile.

Guayaki, which sources many of its ingredients from the Amazon rainforest, has a goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. After reaching its goal of restoring 200,000 acres of rainforest in 2020, Guayaki set a more ambitious goal of regenerating 2 million acres of rainforest by 2030.

CEO Chris Mann says, "It is incumbent on businesses to use the vast resources that they have to really solve problems and drive progressive change.”

Guayaki also continues to support climate policy at the state level by partnering with The Climate Center and at the federal level by participating in calls with members of Congress to support clean energy standards and other sorely needed climate legislation.

Enphase Energy, a leader in micro-inverters for solar arrays and battery storage with a market capitalization of $23.6 billion, is pushing both innovation and policy to try to move the climate needle.

Raghu Belur, the company’s co-founder and chief product officer, says, “The only thing getting in the way of this future is us. We need to double down on policies that rapidly accelerate the growth of clean energy technology. Enphase and the rest of the clean energy industry will continue driving forward solutions, but the world is watching what our local and national leaders do next. Business and global economies will be negatively impacted if we don’t take action soon.”

We are now at a time where businesses must go beyond improving the climate performance of their internal operations. They need to support public policy that protects the natural infrastructure on which all business depends, just as they would support public infrastructure investment that is essential for economic development.

How can they do this?

There are many ways. Join The Climate Center’s Business Network that makes it easy for members to support climate policy solutions that are also good for the economy. Push Chambers of Commerce at the local, state, and national levels to make climate solutions a key component of their policy platforms. Participate in networks and initiatives that support national climate legislation.

As Enphase, Guayaki, and their climate-friendly peers show us, when we invest in climate solutions there is money to be made. Transitioning the economy away from fossil fuels is good for our health and environment, and for the bottom line.

Ellie Cohen, the CEO of The Climate Center warns, “Governor Newsom and California leaders need to phase out fossil fuels, scale up natural climate solutions, and start seriously investing in community resilience if we want any chance of turning this ship around. We have the tools and the knowledge to reduce emissions and save lives, we just need the political will.”

Businesses need to be a key part of generating that political will.

Powering the Bottom Line

Barry Vesser is the chief operating officer at The Climate Center. In 2010 he started and led The Climate Center Business Network. He currently manages the center’s policy team, the statewide effort in partner collaboration, and assists with the organization’s strategic planning and program development.

Read previous columns.

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