Seminar keynote speaker Danish climate scientist and TV weatherman Jesper Theilgaard told risk managers that they should not regard climate change as a disaster so terrible that nothing could be done to reduce or mitigate its impacts. “The biggest risk in dealing with climate change is to treat it as Doomsday and think there is nothing we can do about it. It is very important when we talk about climate change that it is not as a Doomsday scenario but as risks and opportunities,” he said.
Theilgaard gave the Seminar an overview of many inter-related ways that the emission of greenhouse gases is continuing to change the environment from more extremes of weather, higher sea levels, toxic air pollution and the migration of disease agents and crop pests. There are, he advised, certainly enormous risks but also great opportunities in developing long-term mitigation and local adaptations to these changes.
For example, there will be a mismatch between different parts of the world in terms of the supply of fresh water. Today, it is very expensive to supply fresh water in places where there is a shortage. Alternative sources of energy are not new technology, but we need better ways to integrate diverse energy sources into the electrical grid. Such problems can provide opportunities for companies to innovate.
According to Theilgaard, for much of Europe, increased flooding is probably the greatest threat from climate change, as a result of more extreme storms and rising sea levels. “Europe has a lot of coast line where there are big cities. We are thinking about the effects of climate change now, but we have a large stock of older buildings and infrastructure which has not taken climate change into account,” he said. “The infrastructure issue – bridges, roads and railways – is an important one for corporates to consider even if their own buildings are generally resilient.”