From rats to risk: how climate change is shaping the future

Published 23rd June 2016 by Rachel Hunter

The media have reported another climate change first. Research carried out by scientists found the Bramble Cay melomys (a small rat native to Australia) has become extinct. But more than the extinction of an entire species, itself a terrible occurrence, the researchers concluded that it ‘probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change’.

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The main reason for the extinction of the rat was a rising sea-level. The island where the species were located was inundated on multiple occasions by the sea, killing the animals and destroying their habitat.

Across the other side of the world but in the business community this time, there has recently been a similar recognition that human induced climate change poses significant risks. Shareholders in oil and gas firms Chevron and Exxon requested that the companies disclose the full range of physical and financial risks to their businesses posed by climate change.

Both of these news items, on the face of it unconnected, are similar as they offer an insight into the multiple impacts of climate change and what the future may look like.

For the Bramble Cay melomys, the damage has already been done. It’s likely that incidences such as these, where irreparable damage to ecosystems caused by climate change, will increase.

Chevron and Exxon have faced shareholder activism in the past. But the most recent shareholder resolution is different, with shareholders asking for disclosure of risk and what the commercial and financial implications of climate change may possibly be for fossil fuel industries.

The lesson from these two news stories is that climate change is happening, its devastating effects are already taking place and companies need to better understand these.

The world wants to know and is waiting, and companies that don’t take the risks of climate change seriously must answer questions as to why not.

It is therefore timely that this week at Carbon Clear we have kicked off our research into the carbon performance of the FTSE 100, where we will be focusing again on corporate disclosure on climate risks.

It’s the sixth year that we are undertaking the project and we will be pushing the boundaries of what we consider good practice, as we do each year, with a strong focus on climate change leadership, carbon targets and managing the risks and opportunities.

If you’d like more information about Carbon Clear’s research into the carbon performance of the FTSE 100, please get in touch with Rachel Hunter.

Photo by @serefyucar

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