Weather forecast predicts retailers will face more record-setting heat waves and storms

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/bennymarty
Jul 28, 2021

“Men argue. Nature acts.” Voltaire

A new research study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change concludes that record-setting weather events such as the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest this summer are going to happen more frequently and with greater severity in the years and decades to come.

Seattle hit an all-time high of 108°F during the recent heat wave, well above the previous record of 103°. Portland’s temps reached 116°, a full nine degrees over its previous high.

A new computing model by ETF Zurich in Switzerland has found that record-setting heat waves in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Australia may become two to seven times more likely between now and 2050. ETF also forecasts that record setting temperatures are going to happen between three and 21 times more frequently between 2051 and 2080. The research is alarming because it predicts old models being topped by similar increases as were recorded in the Pacific Northwest. Each proceeding event, on top of a previous record, will make for dangerous living and working conditions.

“The probability of record-shattering events is directly related to the speed of warming,” Erich Fischer, who led the research, told Axios. “This is yet another piece of the puzzle that demonstrates that, in order to reduce the risk of such record-shattering heat, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced very rapidly.”

ETF Zurich’s findings support those of other climatologists who have been warning about the increasing dangers associated with global climate change.

Retailers have begun to act with varying degrees of urgency in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the environmental impact of their operations, as well as that of suppliers.

The progress made, however, did not exempt any retail businesses located in the Pacific Northwest from the recent heatwave. Amazon.com gave warehouse workers ice scarves so they could continue working during the heatwave. Some workers left early due to the strain of working under the adverse conditions.

Extreme heat, cold and other natural events including storms and wildfires also put pressure on the electric grid. Kyri Baker, a professor of engineering at  the University of Colorado Boulder, told Recode that the system comes up short as a result of the combination of ”extreme temperatures, more electricity consumption, and aging infrastructure.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How significant a threat is climate change to the short, mid and long-term interests of retailers and their partners? Are retailers and their suppliers, generally speaking, being aggressive enough in addressing this challenge?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The retail industry has the opportunity to lobby elected officials to change US policies. We’ve wasted decades … it’s time to get caught up."
"This isn’t just a retail thing. It’s a planet thing. And apart from some activists, nobody is doing enough."
"Super threat to physical retail, like it needed another one."

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16 Comments on "Weather forecast predicts retailers will face more record-setting heat waves and storms"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Regardless of what side of the climate change argument you stand, it’s undeniable that weather is changing. This goes far beyond retailers and suppliers, this is about all of humanity and our ability to find ways to navigate these challenging times. We all need to take personal responsibility and we need to do it with a sense of urgency.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Super threat to physical retail, like it needed another one. The idea of going out to a store on a 110 degree day vs hitting “buy now” on your phone or laptop seems downright ridiculous. But just like in the heat of COVID, I’d expect e-com to keep chugging along and producing increases for the best and most prepared brands.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Could retailers do more to tackle climate change? Sure they could. How do they balance this with the need to remain commercial and serve consumers? That’s the more complex part and it is a very difficult balancing act. To some extent, small actions — such as reusing and recycling, using renewable energy to power stores, etc. — are the best ways to make an immediate impact. Collectively those things do make a difference.

From a trading perspective, the most immediate challenge is the disruption to demand. If traditional weather patterns break down, retailers will need to rethink their supply chains and have much more flexibility to quickly change to ranges which are suitable for the prevailing climate. On top of this is the issue of a more fragile supply chain if there are floods, droughts and other severe events across the world.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Climate change is absolutely a significant threat to all of retailers’ interests — short, mid, and long-term. In addition to concerns regarding how sustainable the business is and how well it can adapt to drastic change, demand forecasting models need to be considering weather variations more seriously than ever before. There are many variables to be concerned with in this equation — changing staff needs, improvements to sustainability efforts, and changing consumers’ needs.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

We’re up against potentially catastrophic climate consequences. As important as it is for all of to make responsible choices, the retail industry has the opportunity to lobby elected officials to change US policies. We’ve wasted decades … it’s time to get caught up.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
Let me take these questions in reverse order. No, today retailers and their suppliers aren’t being aggressive enough in the short, mid or long terms in addressing climate change. Now, to the original issue, climate change represents an existential threat to physical retailing in certain geographies. It isn’t just a matter of whether or not it gets too hot on some days to go to the store. It quite literally is a matter of whether or not certain cities can survive — just ask the folks in Paradise, California. If climate change results in a continually escalating pattern of wild fires, reduced water supplies, raises in sea levels, and further threats to air quality — and there is no reason to believe it won’t based on experience — then cities from Miami to Los Angeles and New Orleans to parts of New York City may become literally uninhabitable over the long term. No people, no retail. Of course the ecosystem is just that — a global system. Retailers in Seattle can’t control what happens in… Read more »
DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

Given the already stressed profit margins of retailers, the ultimate impact of climate change on the retail industry will be a substantial wave of bankruptcies. The coming legislation that will be needed to protect human life could very well drive many brands and retailers out of business. It’s imperative that the entire industry perfect their omnichannel capabilities now to minimize the risk to their financial wellbeing should the current benefits of one or more of those channels be restricted in future.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

Recently, an economist said that since the invention of air conditioning, our population is moving to the South, notably Houston, Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio. With the way climate change is going, perhaps we’ll see a return to Northern cities like Chicago, Philly and NYC? If I were a retailer, I’d be spreading out my supply chain to cover all the bases.

Venky Ramesh
BrainTrust

Climate change is a big threat to all the inhabitants of the planet — from humans to animals. Just the fact that we still have retailers using plastic bags tells me not enough is being done to fight climate change. A CGT paper in line with the Paris agreement outlines the measures retailers and manufacturers need to take to keep global warming well under 1.5 degrees increase by 2050, but that requires a lot more urgent action. While Covid accelerated e-commerce, it gave rise to one of the biggest sources of GHG — vehicle emissions. Thankfully, the work-from-home culture is providing a good counter-balance to it.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Ice scarves? Seriously?

Well, it’s something retailers are going to have to deal with. From rising HVAC costs, to store closures to power outages, we are clearly in for a ride.

Retailers who get on the right side of this issue will find themselves with brand loyalty from both customers and their workforce. Retailers who get on the wrong side will eventually experience defections from both.

Ice scarves anyone?

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust
The threats to operations, customer and team member safety and long term viability are very real. They are also local in nature, meaning the most acute impacts of climate change tend to be inconsistent across geographies. For larger retailers with operations across the country and the globe, the potential for climate disruption is massive. It has the potential to impact supply chains, facilities, transportation networks and sadly, individual team members and customers. I believe the first step for companies to mitigate the impact of climate change on their operations and team members is to insure they have monitoring tools in place that can provide operational intelligence about disruptions, when and where they’re occurring. Singular events, like a wildfire or a superstorm can be tracked. Even a few hours notice can make a difference in mitigating their impact. Some climate events, like hotter summers or snowier winters can also be anticipated using modeling and longer range forecast. Are retailers and their suppliers being aggressive enough about addressing climate change? Today, and I think long term, it… Read more »
Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

This isn’t just a retail thing. It’s a planet thing. And apart from some activists, nobody is doing enough. “Sustainable” and “green” need to become the umbrellas for our thinking and behavior on a level way higher than we are currently performing. Kind of odd that we have a billionaire space race (3 of them no less) when there are a couple of projects on planet Earth that could use some additional attention.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I take these predictions with some caution. Yes, man is affecting the world with global warming. However, the predictive abilities of science to anticipate the future due to global warming are quite limited.

Regardless, I doubt that it affects retailer fortunes dramatically — as with any adverse condition (which retailers encounter all the time), it will have to be managed smartly.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“Retailers have begun to act with varying degrees of urgency in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the environmental impact of their operations, as well as that of suppliers.”

Right, and when they have a choice of cutting product costs by offshoring to some country with few labor laws, and even fewer environmental regs — not to mention the fuel burned by transporting across the globe — they’re going to….

Take out an ad — or maybe these days create a TikTok video — announcing how concerned they are, donate a fraction of 1% of profits to some do-gooder group and write about it glowingly in their annual report.

Over-simplified and (more than) a bit cynical? No doubt. But I don’t have any illusions about where a 5-100 year problem lies on most corporate to-do lists. And to be fair, it’s darn hard to say what they “should” be doing.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Planning product assortment and supply chain strategies based upon the past may leave retailers in trouble if these predictions are correct. Whatever strategies and plans are made it will be essential to have some way of detecting changes in predictions and in actual circumstances and to have enough flexibility to adapt quickly. Planning based upon the past and relying on it is no longer effective.

Keverne Denahan
Guest

How come no one ever mentions how single deliveries use many more resources than a collective delivery to a retail store? Or that when things are made locally, including parts and materials, that you are also using fewer resources while, wait for it, providing jobs in the local economy? Plus, there is a less of a chance of supply chain interruption when things are created domestically. Politics should not play a part in this pragmatic decision-making because it’s just common sense, and it’s never too late.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The retail industry has the opportunity to lobby elected officials to change US policies. We’ve wasted decades … it’s time to get caught up."
"This isn’t just a retail thing. It’s a planet thing. And apart from some activists, nobody is doing enough."
"Super threat to physical retail, like it needed another one."

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