The Risky Business Project

by Chloe Rodman

Writing in the New York Times, Burt Helm (2015) discusses the roles of Tom Steyer, Henry Paulson Jr., and Michael Bloomberg in leading the new Risky Business Project. The Risky Business Project originated as a study called Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, which was created to determine how American business will be affected by climate change and to determine the cost of carbon emission mitigation now, as opposed to the cost of waiting. While Risky Business comprises a wide variety of members who don’t agree on much—democrats and republicans, billionaires, senators, and mayors—they do have one common goal: to show both Congress and corporations across America the impact climate change will have on the economy, a cost estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars.

The study found that if America continues to put off confronting climate change, crops will die and flooding will increase, causing problems for both the production and transpiration of food. A partner to Risky Business, the Rhodium Group, conducted further research. It found that Midwest crop yield will drop by 15 percent in 25 years, that the Northeast will have around $11.1-$15.8 billion of property damage due to an increase of storms, and that there will be an surge in demand for energy ranging from 3.4 to 9.2 percent.

Steyer’s associate, Henry Cisneros, the former housing and urban development secretary under President Clinton, determined that real estate sales in both Florida and California will drastically decline due to an increase in storms and drought severity respectively.

The American public sees this information and knows that action must occur. A Pew and Gallup study shows that many Americans know that climate change is a big and urgent problem but according to a New York Times poll, 83 percent of people still rank it below jobs, health care, and the economy on a list of ‘pressing issues.’ It seems as if citizens, especially farmers, are more concerned with short-term gains than long-term outcomes. Farmers want incentives to cut carbon emissions because they are not willing to lose profit now for a future problem, especially since a large majority of farmers, according to a representative to the American Farm Bureau, don’t believe that humans contribute to climate change.

Risky Business member Robert Rubin, the former secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton says that he used to believe that addressing climate change, especially regulating carbon emissions, would damage America’s economy. However, looking at the facts presented by the Project, he has had a change of heart. Rubin says: “Once you see it as having catastrophic impact, any economic argument follows that, because you’re not going to have an economy left…Climate change is the existential threat of our day.”

Helm, B. 2015. Climate Change’s Bottom Line. The New York Times.

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