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The Ethical, Climate Ready Workforce

Posted By Keith Rizzardi, Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Ethical, Climate Ready Workforce Carbon Rises into Earth's atmosphere

Carbon rises into Earth's atmosphere, and rhetoric rises in Washington, D.C. Organizations everywhere are struggling to understand how to respond to these wild short-term swings of the federal political pendulum. One way is for businesses, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations to create a trained workforce with an understanding of the complexities of the policy and science nuances, and best operational practices, related to climate change.

Employee training is rarely an exciting topic. A thorough understanding of climate change, however, is essential to the modern workforce. In a post-truth, fake news era, organizations and individuals must possess the ability to discern reality. In years ahead, changes in rainfall patters may affect water supplies. Altered temperatures may affect agriculture and pollinator species. Storm events may destroy structures. Widespread flood events may increase. There is room, of course, to debate some details, such as the precise rate of rising seas. Some estimates may be high, others too low. But scientific uncertainty is not a basis for inaction. One does not need to be a doomsday prepper to recognize that risks are everywhere.

The question for every organization is how to best prepare for and respond to the changes ahead. And, for the professionals in those organizations, ethical duties apply. The speech and debate clause may empower reckless politicians with immunity to say anything at all, but the licensed accountants, architects, engineers, lawyers, and even realtors who erroneously rely upon or intentionally spread misinformation and lies can expose themselves to claims of malpractice and fraud. When it comes to climate change, professionals must demonstrate competence and truthfulness.

Fortunately, competence can be achieved and demonstrated in many ways. Programs and seminars can help educate people on critical concepts of climate change, and the goal should be to create a broad, interdisciplinary perspective that blends credible facts and science with knowledge of international, federal, state, and local policy, science and business perspectives. Professionals can seek out forums to share ideas and to network with peers and experts, so they can learn from the mistakes and successes of others. People can seek out expertise, too, and earn certifications demonstrating heightened competence in the field. Through a combination of “bootcamp” and online courses, in-person workshops, and credentialing programs, the Association of Climate Change Officers, a not-for-profit entity and professional association, offers an excellent way to meet these many employee training needs.

Public servants working for various federal environmental agencies have voiced concerns about the incoming administration. Perhaps they will even be forbidden from working on climate change, or even attending training programs. But ignorance solves nothing, and the problems of climate change will not disappear in the next four years. If and when the federal government fails to act, then other entities -- international, state and local governments, academics and non-profits -- must fill the void. Of special significance, in the business world, unexpected events might trigger sudden shortages, wild price fluctuations, and disruptions in supply chains and delivery systems. Risk-aware businesses know that long-term profitability and sustainability is at stake. Indeed, believe it or not, the leaders of commerce must become leaders in the difficult and controversial dialogue over climate change.

Our society can transform. Through technology innovation and behavioral modifications, people can reduce the carbon footprint, enhance public health, and embrace the social and business opportunities ahead. But rising to the challenge of climate change requires a workforce capable of recognizing the problems and implementing the solutions. For sophisticated organizations looking for ways to prepare for the climate changed future, a visit to ACCOonline.org is a good start. 

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Keith W. Rizzardi, a professor at St. Thomas University School of Law near Miami, Florida, is a member of The Florida Bar, a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Administrative and Government Practice, and a member of the ACCO Champions Council. His scholarship related to the ethical implications of climate change includes Sea Level Lies: The Duty to Confront the Denier, 44 Stetson Law Review 75 (2014) and Rising Seas, Receding Ethics? Why Real Estate Professionals Should Seek the Moral High Ground, 6 Wash. & Lee Jrnl. of Energy, Climate & Environment 402 (2015).

The header picture is from Reddit Pics, and the picture below, of Mantoloking, NJ before and after Superstorm Sandy, is from Weatherworks Inc. and USGS.

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Tags:  capacity building  climate  climate change  ethics  preparedness  resilience  training  workforce 

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