Climate impacts: Field of action industry and commerce

Pipelines on a factory siteClick to enlarge
Even industrial production is affected by climate change.
Source: Thorsten Schier/fotolia.com

The consequences of climate change confront companies with new challenges: rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and especially more frequent weather extremes have an indirect effect on the profits. Production plants can be damaged, business operations can be delayed and productivity can be reduced. However, climate change also entails new opportunities.

Table of Contents

 

Temperature

Rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves occurring in the course of climate change affect the productivity and health of employees. Heat can affect the cardiovascular system and significantly restrict the ability to concentrate. In addition, the operability of machinery and storage of temperature-sensitive products such as food may be disturbed.

Accordingly, the cooling requirements of commercial buildings through air-conditioners or fans increase, which again increases the energy cost for companies. Furthermore, investments in more efficient refrigeration systems may be necessary. To what extent these additional expenses in summer can be offset by reduced heating costs in winter is not yet assessable and it is unlikely that there will be an universally valid answer. Inner city areas with a high percentage of paved surfaces, little green space and a lack of cold air supply from the surrounding areas are particularly affected by heat stress.

 

Water availability

Climate change increases the risk of flooding. Plants on slopes and in hollows in close proximity to waters and in commercial or inner city areas with a high building density and low flow possibilities are particularly at risk. Possible consequences include damage to plant facilities, constraints in production or even downtime.

In summer, however, it is expected that groundwater levels will decline and water levels in rivers will decrease due to decreasing rainfall and increasing temperatures. Furthermore, flowing waters are warmed up. In that case, businesses only have limited access to cooling water, especially during prolonged dry periods. Finally, conflicts with the demands of water conservation can arise, too.

The water needs of industry and commerce vary from industry to industry. However, in general the water needs are high so that these sectors are strongly susceptible to water deficiency. This may delay the production process or even interrupt it entirely. In addition, low water makes the water transport of goods more difficult. This can result in supply shortages and increased transportation costs.

In addition, rising water temperatures also affect the water quality. Businesses such as paper and chemical plants that are dependent on high water quality therefore have to handle increasing energy demands and costs for water treatment. Thus, in future, affordable and reliable water supply will play an increasingly important role for companies.

 

Extreme weather events

A single extreme weather event can damage or destroy business property and technical equipment. In such cases, also hazardous substances can be discharged. They endanger human health and pollute the nature and its habitats, strongly affecting animals and plants in the long term.

Commercial areas have a particularly high potential for damage due to the high property values. In addition, there is a trend in production, logistics and retail properties towards functional, flexible and less robust building envelopes, which are more susceptible to weather extremes.

Due to rising temperatures, rainfall on snow covers will become more frequent, which increases their weight significantly. If the snow stays on the supporting constructions of business buildings for quite some time, this can affect the statics and in the worst case cause a collapse entailing considerable damages to humans, material and productions.

Furthermore, weather turbulences can lead to interruptions or a breakdown of production operations, even if companies are not directly affected by the extreme weather event. This is the case if, for example, access roads are flooded and transport routes of employees or for material are blocked or when damage to infrastructure causes a disruption of electricity, fuel, telecommunications or water supply. This can entail long production or delivery losses. Especially companies with tightly coordinated production steps can be affected significantly.