As the federal government works to minimize the impacts of climate change — such as protecting supply chains and fortifying communities against extreme weather — leaders at all levels are asked to consider their policies and plans in a new light.
There are over 20 climate risk and adaptation plans in the Climate Change Risk Management Plan published by the General Services Administration in conjunction with 20 other agencies and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Two members of WashingtonExec’s Climate Change Council — Chairman Stephen Ambrose, chief climate scientist at Science Applications International Corp., and Matt Fouch, a geophysicist, who co-founded Samara/Data — recently weighed in what to expect as climate change rises in priority.
Government contractors must now consider how they address climate change risk management, reducing emissions and adapting new technologies. They’ll also need to ensure they are contributing to social equity and enabling resilience through their climate actions, Ambrose said.
“This will further their understanding and direct experience in climate adaptation and risk management to help government achieve their goals,” he said. “Through this direct engagement, contractors become a meaningful voice in the scientific, engineering and resilience dialogue as well as a positive influencer across their own communities.”
WashingtonExec is uniquely poised to integrate activities among several councils along this theme, including climate change, supply chain and risk management, Fouch said.
“The new WashingtonExec Global Climate Change Council can take the lead on roundtable discussions of the GSA guidelines with council members, as well as leverage industry and academic subject matter experts across an integrated front to be a thought leader in these new directives,” Fouch said.
As companies hone in on risk management strategies, the need for accelerated, cost-effective and impactful solutions will drive innovation and demand, Ambrose said.
“Previous approaches to building resilience will no longer have the luxury of time as climate extremes mandate immediate response and a strong return on investment,” he said.
SAIC has built the SAIC Climate Enterprise to address the challenges related to climate change. The enterprise will expand cooperation and coordination with government, industry and nongovernment organizations to design and enhance decision support tools that increase resilience, environmental justice and sustainability.
“One huge step towards that goal was the creation of the Climate Change Council in partnership with WashingtonExec,” Ambrose said.
While the new Climate Change Risk Management Plan may introduce challenges for some contractors, there is also potential for positive new opportunities, Fouch said.
“The overarching challenge will likely be additional new requirements for contractors — the so-called ‘red tape’ required to work with the federal government,” Fouch said. “However, many of the new requirements generate exciting potential new opportunities, particularly related to data and analytics, as long as the federal government provides funding streams to enable these activities.”
Risk management is often viewed as a hedging or conservative prevention approach, but there are also broad and exciting opportunities for innovation, Fouch said.
“The requirement to use climate science for partnerships on climate-ready facilities, products and services will likely generate significantly higher levels of collaboration with the federal government to integrate new ways to utilize the results of climate change research beyond the academic realm and into direct, actionable practice,” Fouch said.
And the requirement to review government critical information infrastructure could potentially generate new synergies across disparate fields of climate change science and risk management.