Perspective

Climate Change Revisited: What Federal Managers Can Do in 2022

January 4, 2021

LMI Staff

LMI has advised federal customers climate adaptation, risk mitigation, sustainability, and resilience for over a decade. In 2012, a cohort of LMI experts published, Climate Change: What You Can Do Now. This guide provided practical recommendations to help federal managers begin addressing the direct and indirect consequences of climate-related risks.

In 2021, government leaders have expressed a renewed commitment to combating climate change and the growing risks it presents to federal infrastructure and operations. LMI has asked a new cohort of experts, including some of the book’s original authors, to examine how climate challenges and solutions have evolved over the past decade, and how to enact those recommendations today.

Sections will be added below on mitigating climate's impacts on supply chain, public health, national security, land use and infrastructure, vehicles and fleets. Click "+" to the right of each section to learn more.

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With extreme weather and climate-related hazards increasing in frequency and intensity, federal managers must make their infrastructure and supply chains more resilient to climate events. Sorting through massive amounts of climate data and modeling projections can overwhelm a decision-maker trying to understand mission-specific risks. However, advances in climate data analytics drive objective decision-making portfolio-wide and for specific assets and supply chains.

Protecting Supply Chain From Climate Risks

When considering infrastructure, climate effects can take days or years to fully manifest with recovery following a similar timeline. For supply chains, effects can be shorter: the ability to respond depends on the processes and suppliers of the organization. Recently, LMI performed a climate assessment reviewing how climate change could affect DoD weapon system availability. Without mitigation, we found that, for certain sites, climate change could decrease asset availability by 12%.

As climate events continue to affect the end customer, organizations are accountable for the climate-related effects of their supply chains. Climate scientists, supply chain managers, data analysts, and risk management experts must address the need to detect disruptions and prioritize risk mitigation strategies amid resource constraints. Targeted, quantitative climate risk assessments enable agencies to advance decision-making in federal procurement, network design, capital planning, disaster response, infrastructure improvements, and many other processes with enterprise-wide results.

However, it is not good enough to have the data. Today’s data-driven decision-making environment requires turning data into actionable insights. As the private and public sector review their supply chains as a result of COVID-19, now is a perfect time to consider climate-related risks as part of those tradeoffs. How can you plan climate change into your future resilience efforts?

Recommendation 1: Use a risk-management approach that incorporates risk from regulation and climate.

A risk-management approach for supply chain adaptation begins with understanding the risks that climate change presents to your supply chain. The specific risks your supply chain faces are driven by the configuration of your supply chain with two general categories of climate change risk: regulatory and climate.

Regulatory risk comes from new regulations changing the cost structure of your supply chain, how you can manage your supply chain, or even materials you can use in your products. Climate risks result from physical changes to the environment due to climate change. These risk events can hinder the supply chain by interrupting production, disrupting transportation, or changing customer preferences.

Recommendation 2: Identify the climate change-involved risk to your supply chain and prioritize them by which can affect your supply chain significantly in the near and long term.

Mapping the supply chain offers a geographic context for your operations. Many climate change effects vary by geographic location and type of operation. While it is beneficial to map out the entire supply chain, focus initially on strategically vital products and their components.

Risks can be uncovered by questioning how changes to your supply chain can affect physical locations, operations, demands, regulations, or utilities. Once you have identified climate change risks, prioritize them. Target those risks with a high likelihood of occurring and that can affect your supply chain operations significantly. Prioritization enables you to address the most significant threats, rather than the most visible.

Recommendation 3: Strategically align your mitigation actions to ensure they lead directly to adaptation objectives while remaining appropriate for the organization’s supply chain.

Adaptation programs should be coordinated across organizations. Treatment actions can include network redesign, partner change, product change, response plans, or monitoring plans. Tailor the specific treatment actions to your operational requirements, capabilities, resources, and objectives.

The more proactive the risk treatment action, the greater its value for averting disruptions. While response plans are low cost to create, their execution implies that a disruption has occurred or is imminent—even the most successful response still occurs as a result of a disruption to the supply chain.

Selecting a treatment approach is not simply a matter of reducing risk. The approach needs to support your adaptation strategy and your strategic objectives. In developing a supply chain adaptation program, research your organization’s continuity of operations, business resiliency, and other risk management plans. The adaptation strategy should tie into processes and resources to avoid duplicating effort. 

Kerry McCarthy leads LMI’s supply chain risk management practice. He has 15 years of experience in working with various organizations—such as the Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, NASA, Amtrak, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization—to improve the resilience of their supply chains.

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