Climate Change and Economic Risks

UM President Donna E. Shalala says everyone needs to step up and address climate change and its impacts.

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UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 24, 2014) — On Tuesday, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala joined the debate on climate change as a member of The Risky Business Project, a joint, non-partisan initiative. Shalala partnered with fellow former political leaders to discuss global trends and the economic risks of climate change.

The initiative just released a report, “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States,” which shows that communities across the country face profound risks from climate change. The report found that, in Florida alone, more than $346 billion of current real estate will be underwater by the end of this century.

“In many ways, Florida is a testing ground for how the United States will manage the risks of climate change,” Shalala said in a statement released by Risky Business. “Will we sit by and watch as many of our coastal cities face an ever-rising sea, and as severe heat strains our electric grids and hobbles our workers? Or will we act now to help reduce the risk that these impacts will spiral out of control in the future? It’s time for us all to step up.”

Researchers at UM are working on a variety of climate-focused research. Most recently, researchers from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) have been transplanting and studying coral colonies located in the PortMiami shipping channel to learn how they’ve adapted to the suboptimal, urban environment. The new Marine Technology & Life Sciences Seawater Complex, also located at RSMAS, is the only facility worldwide with a seawater tank wind-wave-storm surge simulator capable of generating up to Category 5 hurricane force winds in a 3-D test environment.

In the College of Arts & Sciences, faculty member Douglas Fuller has used satellite imagery taken over the southeastern Everglades to confirm long-term trends of mangrove expansion and sawgrass habitat loss near the shore related to salt water intrusion caused by sea-level rise and water management practices.

“We have several research programs focused on these topics. But there’s only so much we can do at the state level,” Shalala said. “We need the full engagement of the business community, and of the federal government, to help us prepare for and mitigate those risks that are, quite frankly, beyond the scale of what any single state or company can handle.”

Shalala also said that Florida’s coastal communities are working to ensure that they are more prepared for severe weather-related flooding and storm surge.

“I’m optimistic, but we have more to do,” Shalala said. “The U.S. has the ingenuity, resources, and the moral obligation to lead by example. We have to build smarter, plan better, and educate ourselves.”

The Risky Business Project is a first-of-its-kind effort and new approach to understanding the possible costs of unmitigated climate change, providing businesses, investors, households and policymakers with critical information about the nature of the climate risks they face.

Risk Committee members include Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Gregory Page, Executive Chairman, Cargill, Inc. and former Cargill Chief Executive Officer; Robert Rubin, Co-chairman, Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State, of the Treasury and former Secretary of Labor; Olympia Snowe, former U.S. Senator representing Maine; and Dr. Al Sommer, Dean Emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

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