Do we as climate change consultants, lawyers, accountants, and other advisors see ourselves as having a larger goal when it comes to our work? Are we consciously trying to make a difference on climate change, including trying to accelerate a low-carbon transition? The answer is certainly “yes” for many of us. This invitation is for you.
I’ve been a climate advisor for almost three decades. I founded the first consultancy in the U.S. to focus on private sector climate risk assessment and management (Trexler Climate + Energy Services). We did the first carbon footprints, the first carbon offset projects, the first carbon price modeling, the first carbon neutral company, and more. That was all 20+ years ago; hundreds of our project documents, white papers, and publications are sitting on shelves and on people’s hard drives. Have our reports, risk scenarios, and carbon offset projects had a climate impact? A tough question, but one worth asking.
Almost 5 years ago I had reason to rethink my personal direction as a result of a corporate restructuring. As part of that rethink I talked to a couple of hundred climate advisors, learning that lots of people were asking themselves the same “am I making” or “can I make a difference” questions. I summarized some of those conversations in a short piece in Environmental Finance, “After 25 Years, Where to Now?”
The good news today is that the opportunity for climate advisors to make a climate difference is probably greater than at any time in the past. There are so many potentially material business variables in play, and so many tipping points are becoming visible in the future haze — although some are probably the same mirages we’ve seen before.
What are some of the variables I’m talking about?
- There’s a huge literature on low-carbon transitions and pathways — several reports and a 631 page book have been published in the last few weeks alone. This is a complicated topic, however, and few business decision-makers really understand it.
- There’s a huge literature on the materiality of sea level rise risks (and the flip side of that coin, business opportunities). Yet by all accounts this literature hasn’t made its way into most relevant business decision-making.
- There’s a growing literature on the investment materiality of climate change risks and opportunities. By most accounts, however, it is still a fringe consideration in most investment decision-making.
- There’s a huge literature and discussion on climate change adaptation, yet most adaptation seems to focus on “weather,” and not on anticipated climate change.
- There’s a huge advocacy push for businesses to lead the way on climate change, but most of the evaluative and academic literature I see throws cold water on the idea. What do business decision-makers think and understand about it?
I suspect there are thousands of climate change advisors today, most active in a relatively narrow slice of the climate risk and opportunity universe. Could knowledge-sharing collaboration among them accelerate progress towards tipping points in how climate risks and opportunities are integrated into climate decision-making? Even given the inherent competitiveness of an advisory community, can we share ideas, impressions, and resource suggestions that would work to our collective advantage in advancing that “larger goal?”
I’m not suggesting founding a new organization, or setting up a new website. I’m also not suggesting that we aren’t providing the best possible advice to those we’re advising, regardless of what that might mean for how a company or organization responds to climate change. What I am suggesting is that if advisors are able to take advantage of the best available thinking and information relating to whatever topic they’re advising on, overall it will result in better climate change decision-making.
That’s why I am inviting you to participate in a simple idea-sharing community based around DebateGraph, an online idea exchange tool. A DebateGraph account is quick and free. I’ve set up a Climate Advisors for Climate Impact DebateGraph map, the structure of which is still skeletal — I’m waiting for your input, to be honest. Right now it’s “open,” to make it easier to start building a map community; later it will be limited to community members. If you want to see a more fleshed out map in DebateGraph, take a look at Climate Change Decision-Making. (You’re welcome to join that map’s community as well, but its focus is different.)
In making this invitation I’m cognizant of the business reasons to collaborate, but I’m thinking most of the “larger goal” that I opened with at the beginning of this post. If you see that larger goal in your work, I’d invite you to help me explore the hypothesis I’ve laid out above with Climate Advisors for Climate Impact.