American Business Must Act to Reduce Climate Risk

This letter originally appeared as an ad in the Wall Street Journal.

An Open Letter to the Business Community

June 17, 2014

As business and policy leaders, we recognize that climate change presents a serious long-term risk to our nation’s economy. Proper risk management dictates that we prepare for the most likely impacts from a changing climate, such as rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, drought, and increasing heat; it also requires that we minimize our exposure to less probable but potentially more devastating risks that threaten entire regions of our country.

We believe a critical first step is to quantify the risks of climate change for American businesses. To accomplish this task, we have joined together as members of the “risk committee” for The Risky Business Project (, a non-partisan, independent effort that is attempting, for the first time, to analyze the economic risks of climate change for American businesses.

Many of us have spent our careers managing risks to our businesses, our communities, and our nation. While we know America’s businesses are highly adept at identifying opportunities and threats, and adapting to the ever-changing business climate, we are concerned that major U.S. industries, financial institutions, and business leaders are disregarding the economic risks we face from climate change.

The wide range of our professional backgrounds, political views, and experience managing complex enterprises means that we have a diversity of views on this topic. And though we may disagree with each other about the appropriate response to climate change, we all see the same big picture: Climate change is an immediate problem that should command our urgent attention.

Once we have fully grasped the risks we face, we can have an informed, lively debate about how to move forward—the kind of debate that happens in boardrooms and management meetings every day.

Our objective is to quantify the associated risks so that business leaders can better understand how climate change could affect our bottom lines. For example, how much coastal property and infrastructure could be lost to sea level rise and storm surge? How might labor productivity and energy system performance be affected by extreme heat? How will farmers adapt to changes in growing conditions? How much contingent liability might the federal government face from flood insurance, crop insurance, disaster relief, and other taxpayer-funded programs?

Crucially, don’t investors, business leaders, and elected officials have a duty to seek answers to these questions?

The Risky Business Project offers an important first step toward a true accounting of the risks of climate change. We know that with access to this information, the American business community can help lead the way in putting our nation on the path toward effective climate risk management.

Michael R. Bloomberg

Henry Cisneros

Donna E. Shalala

Henry M. Paulson Jr.

Gregory Page

George P. Shultz

Dr. Al Sommer

Thomas F. Steyer

Robert E. Rubin

Olympia Snowe

Our full report will be released on June 24 in New York City. To be the first to receive the report, sign up for updates on Risky Business below.

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