Get your business ready to adapt to climate change

Adaptive Capability Portraits of staff, Sydney.What can your business do to prepare for the effects of climate change?

By David McEwen.

A 10cm increase in sea levels is all it takes to treble the risk of major coastal flooding, exposing coastal assets and infrastructure. As warming increases and rainfall patterns change, millions of hectares of fertile crop land are at risk from heat, drought or flooding.

Overwhelming evidence shows that the climate is changing and warming at an unprecedented rate. The way we consume non-renewable products and services, such as petrol from fossil fuels, and our addiction to materials such as concrete is contributing to creating a climate that will, within only a few decades, significantly impact the way we live.  

On whatever scale it happens, there is no doubt that the changing climate will have a deep impact on business: how we work and what we can make. Making your business adaptable and knowing how to adapt in the face of a changing climate is the focus of my new book aimed at helping businesses plan ahead to capture and preserve value.

It took more than 25 years and changes to refrigeration, spray-can and other systems to begin decreasing the size of the hole in the ozone layer after the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1989. Tackling climate change is a much more daunting challenge, affecting a vast range of products and services and touching almost every company. 

So what can businesses do? Some of the impacts scientists predict include disruption to global food and water supplies, collapse of ecosystems, a range of new health challenges, displacement of populations and massive urban infrastructure challenges. Miami Beach in the US recently spent $400 million raising and installing storm-water pumps to protect the iconic but low-lying Alton Road.

Increased public awareness about the true cost of a high-consumption lifestyle will drive a backlash. Industries that continue to produce products and services that consume and don’t contribute to our environment will probably need to change voluntarily or have change imposed on them by government action, such as limiting licences to operate, or imposing higher operating costs.

But what needs to change and how does a business innovate? The knowledge of knowing what is coming allows us to adapt and change before it’s too late.

David McEwen is a Director at strategic consultancy Adaptive Capability and author of

Navigating the Adaptive Economy: Managing business risk and opportunity in a changing climate. Find out more at

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