If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve seen a series of climate-related stories from heavy rains, floods, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, and more. It is hard to ignore that these incidents are increasing in number and severity around the world.
In the year In the 1980s, the United States averaged three billion dollars a year in weather events. Now, in the 2020s, the US is experiencing an average of 20 such weather events per year, causing an estimated $149 billion in damages each year.
Among those at risk are our smaller businesses, which often operate on thinner margins and are more vulnerable to environmental disruptions than their larger counterparts. In Maine, small businesses make up 99% of all businesses and employ 56.8% of the workforce. For these businesses, climate change is not an abstract problem. It is today’s threat.
Climate change has had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on some of our state’s legacy industries: fishing, forestry and agriculture. Maine’s wild-caught fisheries are at risk because the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest-warming areas of the world’s oceans. Other natural resource industries such as forestry and agriculture are also at risk. Changeable weather and unseasonal temperatures create uncertain growing and harvesting conditions, creating more favorable conditions for new pests and diseases. Because of these fluctuations, Maine’s world-renowned wild blueberry industry lost 30 percent of its value last year.
As fisheries, agriculture, and forestry are the foundation upon which many other businesses rely, adverse impacts to these legacy industries could have significant consequences for the supply chain and Maine’s economy.
For other sectors, regional and global supply chain disruptions, due to climate change impacts, introduce risks that could lead to production delays or increases in energy and raw material prices. National studies have shown that business owners are beginning to worry about insurance costs due to sea level rise, drought, wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events associated with climate change.
It’s common in the business world to approach an issue by assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—an exercise known as a SWOT analysis. The path to climate resilience should be no different. The state’s ambitious climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait, acknowledges the threat climate change poses to our heritage industries and lays out an action framework to help businesses focus on future opportunities.
Now is the time for business leaders to take climate action, starting with learning more about climate change and its real impact on their organizations. Raising awareness of the risks and acknowledging vulnerability opens the door to innovation, creativity and many opportunities to respond to these risks.
Those interested in taking this type of action should look to groups like ClimateWork Maine for practical measures such as local and federal tax credits and rebates. Businesses looking to better understand their “blue economy” exposure and develop action plans can also seek technical assistance and support from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and other organizations around the state.
Our present challenges us all to adapt to continue to thrive in a warming world. This is not only about the climate. It is also about creating sustainable economic prosperity for all miners.