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Climate Change Debate Crowded With Ignorance

By Thomas Kostigen
Market Watch
Both global warming skeptics and climate change believers are using the snowstorms pounding the East Coast of the United States as fodder to further their debate.

Both global warming skeptics and climate change believers are using the snowstorms pounding the East Coast of the United States as fodder to further their debate.

The skeptics say the snow disproves global warming. The believers say the snow proves extreme climate events associated with global warming. Both sides are being stupid about the cause and effects of climate change.

Climate is not the weather on any particular day, or week, or month. Climate is the accumulation of weather patterns over the course of years.

I know that we live in a world of Twitter feeds, blog reports, and real-time cable news, but immediacy has no place in climate talks. Hence, knee-jerk reactions to storms, disasters, and temperature readings -- whether you believe in climate change or not -- shouldn't be deemed credible evidence of much of anything.

Weather patterns over the course of years, sure. Temperature-rise over the course of decades, absolutely. But record snowfall on Capitol Hill over the last few days only means for sure that kids will be out of school and that more shovels and snowplows will be needed.

Extend that snow pattern over the next few years, however, and you can bet that school days will be altered and more plows and shovels will be ordered. That is called preparing for a likely scenario. And that is what both sides of the climate debate should be looking at: preparedness. In other words: risk.

The investor coalition Ceres, the financial services firm UBS AG (UBS 18.71, 0.00, 0.00%)  and financial data provider Bloomberg, released a report recently on the risk of water scarcity. Water is the biggest environmental crisis facing us today -- in the here and now. Businesses are realizing the importance of dealing with the water crisis, and that is what the report addressed.

The report ranked the water disclosure practices of 100 publicly traded companies in eight key sectors exposed to water-related risks. It showed that many companies are not including material water risks and performance data in their financial filings. Moreover, none of the 100 companies are providing comprehensive water data on their supply chains, an especially glaring omission given that the vast majority of many corporations' water footprint is in the supply chain, the report said. Read the full report here.

This type of risk, of course, has a direct effect on companies' bottom lines. More disclosure is being called for so companies and shareholders can be prepared for what is likely to come.

Other groups are assessing the risk of climate change on all sorts of things -- from the effects of potential sea level rise on coastal homes to increased costs of energy.

These are the types of discussions we should be having. Let's forget about talking from the science down and begin to take action from the ground up. Let's be prepared for worst-case scenarios.

I forget who said it, but "even if there is a one percent chance of something unimaginable happening," then we should be prepared for it.

Otherwise the only thing you can count on is a lot of talk and a lot of conjecture. And that is called a snow job in Washington, D.C.

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