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Mayor Bloomberg's Risky Business initiative will find out how much global warming hurts the national economy

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Michael Bloomberg (STOCK)
Michael Bloomberg (STOCK)

The devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy on New York City and its surrounding areas appear to have made a lasting impression on Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He created a $20 billion plan to prepare his city for future extreme weather events, and now he thinks that the entire nation needs a similar plan. In an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post, Bloomberg introduced Risky Business — a non-partisan initiative that will look at the entire US economy and evaluate the risks posed by climate change and extreme weather stemming from it. Bloomberg is a co-chair of the program alongside Hank Paulson (former chairman of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary in the George W. Bush administration) and Tom Steyer (founder of Farallon Capital Management), both of whom co-authored today's piece in the Post with Bloomberg.

"If the United States were run like a business," the piece beings, "its board of directors would fire its financial advisers for failing to disclose the significant and material risks associated with unmitigated climate change." It's a bold thesis statement, but Bloomberg and the co-chairs of Risky Business go on to note that they are already "intimately familiar with the systems used to manage risk" — but in regards to climate change and the risk that extreme weather presents to our country, "our risk-assessment systems have broken down."

Rather than try and solve climate change or decide whether or not humans are responsible for it, Boomberg, Paulson, and Steyer are simply accepting it as an inevitable reality in the modern world and are instead more interested in mitigating and managing its effects on our economy."The reality is that we don't yet know everything there is to know about climate change, and we don't know its full potential impact," they write. "That's exactly why we need to assess the risks." Examples given include what changes in temperature and precipitation mean for farmers, how rising sea levels will affect coastal property value, and how stronger and more frequent storms will affect the country's infrastructure.

"Even under the best-case climate scenarios, we are likely to experience more extreme weather, more droughts and heat waves, more destructive storms and floods."

For starters, Risky Business is focusing on two efforts: the aforementioned risk assessment, which will be performed by an unnamed independent source, and an engagement effort targeted at the economic sectors most at-risk from climate change. That effort will leaders across those at-risk segments and help prepare a response. Bloomberg's team will help put together a committee including "national and regional leaders from across the American economic and political spectrum." While there are still a lot of details yet to be revealed about Risky Business, we should hear more in the coming months — the initiative's site says its first risk assessment report will be released in the summer of 2014.