Preparing for and responding to the health and security impacts of climate change

To effectively tackle these challenges, businesses must proactively integrate sustainable practices

By Kathy Brett

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Published: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 9:23 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 9:24 PM

As the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) opens its doors to world leaders, the urgency to address the myriad of pressing issues brought about the climate change has become more critical. Climate change stands as one of the most significant crises of our times, not only threatening the natural environment but also posing a severe risk to human health and well-being.

Recent scientific observations indicate that the last 12 months marked the warmest period ever recorded in human history. October emerged as the hottest month, with global temperatures soaring 1.7C above late-1800s levels. Shockingly, one in four individuals faced intense heat waves, and a staggering 90 per cent of the global population experienced a minimum of ten days of high temperatures. This alarming trend can be directly attributed to the 1.2C rise in the planet’s temperature since the Industrial Revolution, primarily fuelled by human activities releasing heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

From heatwaves, droughts, and floods to hurricanes and wildfires, climate change is the direct cause of many humanitarian crises. In addition to its adverse impacts on the planet, these climate change-driven events also cause various respiratory ailments, food insecurity, water scarcity, social unrest, and conflict, as well as water and vector-borne diseases. The World Health Organisation states that the severe impacts of climate change on the health and well-being of humankind is accelerating at a rather faster pace.

A 2023 BCI survey was conducted to determine the effects of climate-related events on organisations. The participants of this survey stated that supply chain disruption (47.3 per cent), staff absence (45.9 per cent), temporary loss of premises (44.5 per cent), loss of power (41.8 per cent), and revenue loss (27.4 per cent) are their top concerns. The increasing effects of climate change are directly impacting the ability of organisations to operate seamlessly and maintain profitability.

To effectively tackle these challenges, businesses must proactively integrate sustainable practices, strengthening their climate resilience. This necessitates adopting an anticipatory mindset, investing into workforce resilience, building robust infrastructure, and establishing comprehensive early warning systems. The ‘Four A’ methodology - anticipate, assess, adapt, and assist - offers a strategic approach for organisations to navigate climate-related challenges, ensure efficiencies and business continuity. Workforce resilience, robust infrastructure, and comprehensive early warning systems are essential components of this approach.

Kathy Brett, Regional General Manager, Europe and Middle East, International SOS
Kathy Brett, Regional General Manager, Europe and Middle East, International SOS

By adhering to international standards, such as the ISO OHS Climate Standard, organisations can develop comprehensive frameworks to mitigate climate-related risks. Dynamic policies ensure adaptability to emerging risks and changing climate patterns, safeguarding both the workforce and the public effort to combat climate change.

Employers should consider educating their employees on how to manage the security and health concerns associated with climate-related incidents. Employees training on identifying and responding to climate-related crises can be counted as part of these efforts. Comprehensive health and well-being programs and initiatives, , ensure that employees of an organisation are not only surviving but thriving even in the face of adversities.

In the event of a climatic emergency, organisations must promptly deploy medical personnel and security measures to offer on-site support and assistance. Developing crisis response and evacuation strategies tailored to situations, including climate-related emergencies, are also imperative. This entails creating procedures for rapid and effective evacuation in case of severe weather conditions or other events brought on by climate change.

Furthermore, organisations can implement monitoring systems for tracking how climate change affects security and health. This involves providing periodic updates on new developments and hazards so that businesses can modify their strategies as necessary. This can also prove to be beneficial for those who travel for work purposes as it can serve as a guidance for them to understand how to minimise travel risks considering climate change, including suggestions for safe routes, places to stay, and modes of transportation. As industry leaders, applying multifaceted approach, we provide companies with strategic guidance and practical tools to establish long-term resilience against the evolving challenges posed by climate change, in addition to rapid support and assistance during times of natural disasters.

The writer is Regional General Manager, Europe and Middle East, International SOS

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