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The bottom line: global warming bad for business

By Editorial (Chicago Sun-Times) - January 27, 2014

Guilt, cajoling and hard science don’t appear to do the trick.

Perhaps an unbalanced balance sheet will.

At the annual four-day World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the threat of global warming took center stage, with a focus on the ways in which a warming planet is bad for business.

And it’s a very long list indeed, Jeffrey Seabright, Coca-Cola’s vice president for environment and water resources, told the New York Times: “Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years.” Seabright said these changes disrupt Coke’s supply of sugar cane, sugar beets and citrus for its fruit juices.

“When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats,” he said.

A big enough threat, we hope, to finally kickstart a meaningful worldwide effort to curb carbon emissions. Irrefutable science showing that global warming is real, and that human activity is the cause, does not seem to be enough.

Global warming hurts the bottom line by disrupting business — threatening water supplies, raising food costs and interrupting supply chains. And top business leaders, including Coke and Nike, are taking notice, changing their practices and lobbying for policy changes, the New York Times reported.

It’s a start, and a hugely important one. Until the folks that make economies move feel threatened by global warming, nothing will change. They can alter their practices and put great pressure on governments to act.

In a panel on Friday in Davos that included Microsoft’s Bill Gates and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore said businesses were beginning to show leadership on climate change but also said much more was needed: “Even with business leadership we will need governmental actions,” he said. “We need to put a price on carbon. We need to put a price on denial in politics.”

And time is short.

The world economy is at risk, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said, if governments from around the world fail to reach a deal on lowering carbon emissions at the next major round of climate talks in Paris in late 2015.

Here’s hoping pressure from business finally does the trick.