2006 Corporate Summit

May16, 2006


Effects of Climate-Induced Catastrophes Considered
at Annual Corporate Partners Summit


Santa Barbara, Calif. – The economic effects of climate-induced catastrophes were the topic of discussion May 11 and 12 when faculty members joined approximately 50 current and potential participants in the Bren School’s Corporate Partnership Program for the Bren School’s fourth annual Corporate Partners Summit.


“This was my first Summit, and I was excited by the exposure to, and friendships with, our real-world partners,” said Bren School Dean Ernst von Weizsäcker. “We can learn a lot from them.”


Social activities including a golf tournament and barbecue were scattered throughout the schedule, but the main event was a half-day of presentations interspersed with a spirited round-table discussion that emanated from the focus on climate-caused catastrophes and included discussions of fisheries and land use, carbon-trading, policy-making, and host of other issues.


“The program extends the Bren School’s focus on real-world application and gives our Corporate Partners access to great thinkers who have answers and are creating solutions to the serious questions of environmental management,” said Marsha Marcoe, Bren School Corporate Liaison. “That dialog is essential to creating the next steps for putting ideas into action.”


After a cocktail gathering and dinner at Bren Hall, Corporate Partner Tim Cohen, Vice President, URS, one of the world’s largest engineering design firms, introduced Dr. von Weizsäcker, who presented a talk titled


The Dean traced the evolution of environmental thinking from the initial anti-pollution focus of the 1970s and early 1980s through the anti-regulation mindset of the later 1980s and 1990s, and into our current era of increasing world population, growing resource scarcity, and the emerging threat of global warming. He ended with a call for a “new technological revolution” that would be focused on creating a “dramatic increase in resource productivity” – cars that get 100 miles per gallon, light bulbs that use one-tenth the electricity required by current-technology bulbs, buildings that consumer one-quarter of the energy current buildings do.


Participants convened the following morning for three talks that produced a lively, free-flowing discussion. First up was Lindene Patton, Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel for Zurich Environmental at Zurich North America, who offered her personal views about the potential use of environmental insurance products to reduce loss content from natural catastrophes with a presentation entitled: “Insurance and Natural Catastrophes: Environmental Insurance at a Crossroads.”


Bren Professor and Associate Dean John Melack spoke on “The Science of Catastrophes,” using the levee system in the Sacramento River delta to illustrate the potentially devastating consequences of doing nothing in the face of a known – if not entirely predictable – future event. For instance, he said, there is a 64 percent chance of a massive levee failure that would bring seawater into the system and contaminate the drinking water supply of 23 million people.


Bren Professor of Environmental Economics and Policy Charles Kolstad then discussed the economic implications of climate change in a presentation titled "Climate Catastrophes." He examined the issue from several perspectives: physical changes that may occur as a result of climate change (including shutdown of the Gulf Stream and resulting further climate change, or collapse of polar ice sheets and resulting raised ocean levels); economic disruptions in the form of infrastructure overload and mass migrations that may arise from physical changes, such as the loss of Florida coastal residential areas; and the possibly social and political results, such as wars fought over scarce resources.