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Climate Risk Mapping to Map Climate Risks

By: Talia Ibarguen


In 1854, Dr. John Snow mapped reported cases of cholera in London and proved definitively that the disease was being spread through contaminated water, offering a solution to managing the outbreak.

The use of maps to visualize technical data for public audiences is a centuries-old communication tactic, while the discipline of map-making is older still. Countless professions, from city planners to sales managers, from farmers to political strategists utilize geospatial data analysis to convey complex data sets in a form that inspires and engages with stakeholders.

The Sustainability Professional’s Lament

Climate risk metrics are complex, nuanced topics rooted in equally complex data. These metrics carry urgency and call for immediate action, but that message is being drowned out by the enemy of data analysis – noise. A glossy, 50-slide presentation of data collected by scientists, translated by PR professionals, and polished by graphic designers can wow an executive leadership team... But more likely, it will be met with the question “This seems scary, but so what? What can I do about it?"

Sustainability professionals recognize this scenario all too well. We ask ourselves how could this happen? How can your audience not see the roadmap you have so carefully laid before them? As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.”…then comes the saying yelled in frustration “Do I have to draw you a picture?!” The answer is yes. But what does that picture look like?

Drawing The Picture

With maps, you don’t have to be an expert in subjects like climate science to make decisions informed by science. The COO of a water-intense food and beverage company doesn’t have to be a climate scientist to see a red flag when the proportion of facilities in high water-stress areas goes from 30% in 2020 to 50% in 2050 under business-as-usual climate change projections. Now you have a call to action. You have a single map you can slam on the desk of your fellow executive leaders and say “We have a problem. Here it is. If we do nothing, it’s only going to get worse.”

Wasn’t that so much easier than drafting a 5-page memo or a presentation pre-read that no one ever actually reads? Issues like climate change are already a daunting challenge we face globally. There is no reason to make the process of disclosing or even reading a climate-related disclosure equally challenging.  

At Summit, we explore the use of geospatial mapping for climate risk analysis, community engagement, and public policy development. We use industry-leading data sources to create engaging maps that support our analyses and inform action plans for clients.

Some topics we currently analyze and visualize include:

  • Climate-related Risks: Coastal inundation, water stress, groundwater decline, storm intensity, excessive temperatures, wildfires, and energy markets.

  • Land Use and Biodiversity: Endangered species critical habitat areas, land use types and buffer zones, impervious surfaces, and urban heat island potential.

  • Transportation and Logistics: Estimated air miles traveled for flights and associated carbon emissions, employee commuting studies, and downstream transportation and distribution to customers.

  • Community Engagement: Social demographics, neighborhood proximity to development, accessibility to renewable energy, and areas most affected by emerging public policies. 

What Can Maps Do For You?

We at Summit are inspired by the growing availability of data sources and seemingly limitless applications to map and create lasting business value for our clients. Do you have a challenge that isn’t getting the attention it deserves? Are you looking for data-driven solutions? Do you need to replace a block of text in your upcoming presentation with a colorful and compelling call to action?

Reach out to Summit today to learn about how we leverage geospatial data analysis for exceptional client services and what challenges we can solve, together.


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